Witnesses said Willie Charles “ Bubba ” Gates, 25, shot the 24-year-old victim in the head with a rifle in the 300 block of Dix Street after two earlier altercations the same day among a large group of people. Gates apparently believed Parker had assaulted his cousin during the second altercation and wanted revenge.
“I’d just like to apologize to the Parker family for the incident that happened and everything like that,” Gates told Superior Court Judge Quillian Baldwin.
The jury deliberated a little more than an hour.
Gates, who did not testify in his own defense, received an automatic five additional years in prison for firearms violations.
Defense attorney Roger Montgomery had hoped the jury would opt for a manslaughter conviction, which carries a lesser sentence.
“This case should be viewed as one continuous set of events,” Montgomery said Tuesday in opening arguments to the 12-member jury. “You’ll be given some particular options at the end.”
The first altercation was reported to 911 at 8:43 p.m. July 6, the second at 9:28 p.m. and the fatal shooting at 10:14 p.m.
Napoleon D. Truitt, 20, of Revis Street, who also had been indicted for murder, pleaded guilty to aggravated assault and was sentenced Monday to four years in prison and six years’ probation in exchange for testifying against Gates.
Truitt said he ran away when police responded to the second altercation because he was wanted on outstanding warrants. He said he was “curious” about Gates’ whereabouts and went looking for him and “that’s the only reason I saw Bubba kill the man.”
“I ran up and tried to stop the incident,” Truitt said.
He said he heard Gates ask Parker, “Are you the one that hit my cousin?”
“He said he didn’t and he shot him,” Truitt said.
Asked why he didn’t go to the police, Truitt said, “I figured why turn myself in for a crime I didn’t commit?”
He said he pleaded guilty to aggravated assault because it was in his best interests to avoid a murder trial.
Under cross-examination, Truitt said he never heard Gates mention any plans to shoot Parker.
“The witnesses all say Willie Gates was the one with the gun and that he shot Raymond Parker,” said Assistant District Attorney Melissa Himes. “And Willie Gates admitted he shot the victim.”
She said the defendant “must have thought Raymond Parker or someone hit Ashley Gates. Even when Raymond Parker says no, Willie Gates carries out his revenge. He raises up the rifle and fires the deadly shot.”
Police Cpl. John Slonaker, the first officer on the scene less than a minute after the 911 call, said people were telling him Gates had shot the victim, who was lying in the street in a gray T-shirt and denim shorts. The accusations against Gates were recorded on the patrol car’s video camera.
Montgomery sought to get the video excluded from evidence, but Himes argued that it would be admissible under the principle of “excited utterances.”
“I was already thinking that something that close in time would be admissible,” Baldwin said.