Witnesses told police the suspect in the fatal July 4 shooting of a 16-year-old had two guns during an annual fireworks "war" at a Decatur public housing complex, a police detective testified Wednesday.
The testimony came during the preliminary hearing for Shannon Doors Thomas, 26, charged with capital murder in the slaying. Afterward, Morgan County District Judge Charles Langham sent the case to a grand jury, saying he found probable cause to believe the defendant fired into the vehicle in which the victim was sitting “and, as a result, a young man was killed.”
Thomas will remain in Morgan County Jail under no bond, Langham said.
In his testimony, Decatur police detective Joshua Daniell, who was assigned to the investigation, said some witnesses interviewed after the 1:22 a.m. incident said they saw Thomas shooting toward the vehicle, a white Chevrolet Malibu, two to three times.
Daniell said Amari Elijah Deloney, 16, was in the back seat of the vehicle on July 4 at the time of the shooting, which happened in the midst of a fireworks “war” in the area.
Witnesses placed Thomas, of Decatur, in possession of a .25-caliber gun and a larger black gun, and Thomas “even admitted he was in possession of a firearm that evening,” according to Daniell. When the Malibu was processed later, a bullet hole was found in a rear quarter-panel window, and a spent round, measuring 9.07 mm in diameter, was found inside, he said.
Daniell said another man at the scene was in possession of a .45-caliber handgun throughout the evening. When Assistant District Attorney Joseph Lewis asked if a .45 would fire a 9 mm round like the one that was recovered, Daniell said no.
During his testimony, Daniell said he reviewed a Facebook post from Thomas on July 3, saying that if fireworks were fired at him, he wouldn’t be shooting fireworks back.
Daniell said that footage from a video camera near the scene shows the vehicle heading east on Locust Street, rolling through a stop sign and turning south onto 18th Avenue, then leaving the area of the East Acres housing complex.
“You can still see the fireworks going off” around the vehicle, Daniell said. He said Deloney’s body fell against another back-seat passenger.
“(Deloney) was struck in the left side of his head,” Daniell said. “It was a through and through.” He said the bullet entered the left side of Deloney’s head and exited slightly higher on the right side.
Daniell said that when officers arrived at Decatur Morgan Hospital, following a call to central dispatch, Deloney was still alive but unresponsive. He was taken to UAB Hospital, where he later died. The autopsy determined the cause of death was a gunshot wound to the head, Daniell said.
Sgt. Mike Burleson arrived at the East Acres scene at about 2:15 a.m. on July 4, then other officers arrived. In all, there were about 15 to 20 witnesses, including the three other occupants of the Malibu, with some people interviewed multiple times, Daniell said. He said he interviewed close to 10 of the witnesses.
Daniell said that, according to witnesses, there’s a fireworks “war” in the area during the July 4 holiday, with fireworks launched throughout the evening, and the vehicle in which Deloney was a passenger was also throwing out fireworks.
In cross-examination by one of Thomas’ attorneys, Kevin Teague, Daniell said the other three occupants of the Malibu didn’t identify anyone who shot at the vehicle. Teague asked if there is any video that shows Thomas firing a weapon at the car, and Daniell said no.
After the hearing, Deloney’s mother, Shenna Matthews, stood outside the Morgan County Courthouse with other family members.
“I’m just hurting,” Matthews said. “To lose him like this. He was just out there having fun with his friends.”
Thomas “took an angel away,” she said. “He’s got to pay for this.”
“We’re glad they’re going forward” with the case, said Deloney’s aunt, Christy Matthews. “We want justice.”
Teague and Brian White, who’s also representing Thomas, had no comment after the hearing.