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Cortez Sims, the 17-year-old suspect in a 2015 deadly apartment shooting at College Hill Courts, appears before Hamilton County Juvenile Court Judge Robert D. Philyaw for a detention hearing on Jan. 12, 2015.
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Cortez Sims

The year-long feud in 2014 started just before midnight with a flurry of bullets.

Behind a closed door at 1501 E. 50th St., 13-year-old Deontrey Southers asked who was outside that Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The knocker replied with gunshots, and the teenager died with bullets in his chest.

About two weeks later, 22-year-old Quadarius "Oodie" Bowling was shot in the hip on 35th Street. Days later, two men pumped four rounds into 38-year-old Tommy Hubbard from a dark-colored vehicle on North Terrace near Germantown Road. The gunmen sped away unrecognized.

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All of those men are validated or associated members of the Athens Park Bloods and Bounty Hunter Bloods street gangs in Chattanooga, police said. And the flow of violence between them in 2014 may provide a window of understanding into a pending murder case here in Hamilton County Criminal Court.

Prosecutors want to introduce evidence of gang affiliation in the April trial of Cortez Sims, who faces three counts of attempted first-degree murder, two counts of employing a firearm with a deadly weapon, and one count of first-degree murder in connection with a Jan. 7, 2015, shooting at College Hill Courts. That night, authorities say, Sims burst into the apartment and opened fire on Marcell Christopher, Bianca Horton and her then 1-year-old child, Zoie. The onslaught killed a fourth bystander, Talitha Bowman, 20.

But Sims, a member of the Athens Park Bloods, may have been targeting Christopher because of his rival gang affiliation, Executive Assistant District Attorney Lance Pope wrote in a motion last week.

"Evidence that this murder is gang-related tends to establish that Cortez Sims acted with premeditation in selecting his target based on Christopher's respective affiliation with the Bounty Hunter Bloods," Pope said.

Sims' defense attorneys countered they need more time to investigate the claims, having only received them this week. Criminal Court Judge Barry Steelman said Thursday he will hear arguments March 27 on whether jurors should learn about the gang affiliations.

The feud, Pope said, involves "at least two murders and multiple shootings during that year." And court records show police believed Sims, then a minor, was at the heart of the fusillade.

Just before 1 a.m. on Feb. 24, 2014, police arrived at 5610 Pinelawn Ave. in Brainerd, where then 38-year-old Chenika Toney had been shot in the hip inside her residence. Toney told police she didn't know who shot her.

"Chenika Toney is the mother of Cortez Sims," Pope wrote.

Chattanooga police detectives honed in on her son a few months later, sitting him down for a 21-minute interview on June 24, 2014, to discuss "pending homicide and shooting investigations" inside the service center.

He was not arrested that night. And it's unclear how many shootings police thought Sims was involved in.

"[Since] this case against Cortez Sims is ongoing, I feel any information concerning current or past investigations would not be prudent to release as it may have an impact on the prosecution of the defendant," police spokesman Rob Simmons said Thursday.

But 20 minutes into the new year, officers found Deoaunte Dean, a fellow Athens Park Blood, shot to death inside a home on Dorris Street on Jan. 1, 2015, records show. Police haven't made an arrest in his case yet.

Six days later, they say, Sims burst into the College Hill Courts apartment.

Contact staff writer Zack Peterson at zpeterson@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6347. Follow him on Twitter @zackpeterson918.

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