The youngest member of the trio charged with the violent and bloody robbery of a local convenience store clerk in November testified against one of his codefendants Thursday in Carter County District Court.
Testifying for the state, Christopher Banks, 16, occupied the witness stand for several hours in the robbery-by-force-or-fear trial of 18-year-old Deangelo Washington. Banks told jurors he, Washington and 20-year-old Kevontre “Tre” Jones were all members of the nationally known gang Gangster Disciple Nation.
The teenager said he was with Washington and Jones on the night of Nov. 15 when the two older men robbed Yoshikazu Hirashawa, outside the Rockford C Mart where the 41-year-old clerk, known as “Yoshi,” worked. The teenager testified Washington and Jones walked to the store to pull off the heist, that left Hirashawa with multiple life-threatening stab wounds, while Banks waited near their car which was parked at a nearby apartment complex. Banks told jurors he heard screams and walked away from the complex and into a ditch near the road to see what was happening. He said he saw the two older men running toward him and joined in the race to the getaway car.
Banks also testified they used credit cards stolen from Hirashawa to purchase gas for more than one vehicle, and then headed to Gainesville, Texas, where the threesome unsuccessfully tried to use the credit cards at a Walmart store.
While the jury watched security video of the trio’s attempt to use the stolen credit cards at the Texas store, Banks identified himself and his codefendants as they appeared on the screen. Jurors also watched security video which showed the threesome at a Gainesville fast food restaurant shortly after the aborted shopping spree.
Washington’s defense attorney, Brett Morton, pointed to some inconsistencies between the teenager’s trial testimony and earlier statements he had made, but was unable to shake Banks’ overall testimony. Morton did question Banks about his own case.
“You have made a plea agreement with the state haven’t you?” Morton asked.
“Yes,” replied Banks.
Sherri Wallace, Ardmore Police Department crime scene investigator, testified concerning the collection of evidence from the scene of the stabbing as well as collecting DNA evidence. Under cross examination, Wallace told Morton she had investigated more than 100 crime scenes involving blood. Asked if she had any evidence collected at the scene that linked his client to the bloody robbery, Wallace answered, “I do not.”
An OSBI criminologist also testified that tests showed Washington’s DNA was excluded from the evidence submitted to the state agency’s lab.
But earlier in the day, an eyewitness testified he lived at the nearby apartment complex and had seen two men running from the store. He described one as “tall, lanky” and with a “beard.” Washington is 6-foot 3-inches tall, weighs 155 pounds and wears a beard, and is shown with Jones and Banks on the store security videos following the stickup.
Det. Matt Dunn, Ardmore Police Department Criminal Investigations Division, who was the lead investigator in the case, was briefly called to the stand Thursday. Before Associate District Judge Lee Card, who is presiding over the trial, recessed proceedings for the day, Dunn confirmed he had obtained the security tapes showing the three defendants following the robbery, and had interviewed the eyewitness who saw two men fleeing the scene of the heist. The detective, who is expected to be one of the primary witnesses in the case, will return to the stand again at 9 a.m. today when the trial resumes.