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Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter / Jamycal Johnson waits for his preliminary hearing to begin in Judge Lila Statom's courtroom in General Sessions Court at the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Courts Building on Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2019 in Chattanooga, Tenn.

This story was updated at 8:39 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2019, with more information.

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Judge reduces bond for suspect in Coyote Jack's homicide, sends case to grand jury

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Citing weak evidence, a judge on Tuesday reduced the bond for the alleged shooter in the Oct. 6 Coyote Jack's nightclub homicide.

Jamycal Johnson, 24, is accused of shooting and fatally wounding 19-year-old Brandon Rogers during an altercation outside the downtown club as a large crowd exited it. Fire marshals had ordered the club to shut down due to overcrowding.

Johnson is the brother of Jumoke Johnson, a gang kingpin who died at 23 in a hail of bullets back in 2017.

On Tuesday, Hamilton County General Sessions Court Judge Lila Statom said evidence presented during Tuesday's preliminary hearing was not that strong and that the case would be difficult for the prosecution. Nevertheless, she found probable cause and bound it to the grand jury.

But she expressed concern about the high bond amount and, after a bond hearing, she set Jamycal Johnson's bond at $125,000, down from $1.5 million.

A seven-second Facebook video shows a man, whom prosecutors claim is Johnson, approach the brawl outside Coyote Jack's and reach into his pocket to take something out. Two shots are then fired, police say.

The man, dressed in a red track jacket and pants, has his back toward the camera. Several other men were wearing the same outfit that night, likely as part of the event taking place — a hip-hop concert featuring local artists.

Four other men, who were involved in the fight, were detained and questioned.

The fight is believed to be gang-related because police learned that Rogers, who they say was a known gang member, had been told to start an altercation with the group of men, who police say are part of another gang, Chattanooga police homicide investigator Zachary Crawford testified.

About five police officers were at the scene at the time of the shooting and detained the four men that night. None of the police officers, nor the four men, identified Johnson.

Instead, police tied Johnson's identity to the Facebook video based on his driver's license being found in the vicinity.

Also, more security footage from inside the club helped police point the finger at Johnson. Crawford said that while it took police longer than usual to collect the footage because of a "lack of cooperation from the business," the video shows Johnson walking downstairs about 14 minutes before the shooting. In that black and white video, Johnson is seen with the track pants and a white shirt, but no jacket.

Johnson told police during an interview that he had given his jacket to a female earlier that night, but it was not clarified if the jacket was returned to him. During the same interview, Johnson told police he did not shoot Rogers and that he wasn't present for any of the fighting — he had left before shots were fired.

At the scene, no firearm was found and only one 9mm shell casing was found. Investigators did find Johnson's driver's license on the patio where Rogers was shot, though the license had been moved by officers who were at the scene.

Crawford admitted that, based solely on the Facebook video, a positive identification of the person seen taking an object out of his pocket could not be made. But the build of the individual — generally same clothes and hair style — does match that of Johnson.

"Judge," Johnson's public defender, Mike Little, said, "the only evidence that we have is that his driver's license is laying on the patio and that he was there, along with a multitude of other people, wearing red outfits."

"The driver's license ... all it means is the driver's license is lost and was found on the patio," Little said. "It does not mean that Mr. Johnson was involved in the [fight] ... there is no proof linking the driver's license found in that area to him ... shooting Mr. Rogers."

Prosecutor Andrew Coyle rebutted, noting the license was found "in a location that's consistent with the individual you saw in the video reach into their pocket, pull out a firearm and discharge it upon Brandon Rogers. [Johnson] matches the build, he matches the age of the individual that shot him."

While Statom said she believes there is probable cause to move forward with the case, she noted multiple issues with it. First, there were two shots that were fired but only one shell casing, leaving the possibility of a second gun or shooter. And second, Rogers was the one who instigated the fight, opening the door to a possible case of self defense. Although, she noted that Rogers "wasn't fighting with guns; he was fighting with fists" and one "can't defend someone more than necessary to stop the fight."

"It's gonna be a tough case, obviously, for the state of Tennessee," she said. " 'Course I'm sure there's more evidence than I've been presented today. But with the evidence presented today, you could not convict this defendant."

Rogers' death has prompted cries for the club to be shut down from some city council members and many community members, including Sharee James, whose 22-year-old brother was fatally shot outside Coyote Jack's in late 2017.

Since it opened, there have been 19 recorded shooting incidents at the club, 10 of which had victims. Three of the shootings resulted in fatalities, the Times Free Press has reported.

Contact Rosana Hughes at rhughes@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6327 with tips or story ideas. Follow her on Twitter @HughesRosana.

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