Jurors see video of robber dead
Did a restaurant owner go too far?
By COLLEEN JENKINS
Published August 2, 2006
TAMPA - The video had a grainy black-and-white picture and no sound.
But the animation of one man - and the complete stillness of the other - spoke volumes.
Here was Lawrence Storer, the operator of Sumos Thai cafe, who just minutes after getting robbed on Oct. 29, 2003, ran down the robber with his Ford Explorer. Now Storer hunched over the body, pointing accusingly.
On the ground lay 24-year-old Shantavious Wilson. He didn't move.
Prosecutors aired the video publicly Tuesday for the first time in hopes of proving to jurors that Storer, now 35, went too far in going after Wilson. He is on trial this week for manslaughter, punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
Augustus Wilson, the dead man's father, sighed with a sense of anger and resignation over what he saw.
"I don't know the words he said," Wilson told reporters not long after viewing the video. "But the motion he was doing ... Yeah, it hurt me."
Attorneys barreled through opening statements and all of the state's seven witnesses Tuesday.
The case may boil down to three crucial minutes.
That's the time between two 911 calls, one from Storer at 11:28 p.m. to report the robbery and the other at 11:31 p.m. from a security guard saying a man had been hit by a truck.
Opening statements and testimony fleshed out the time line.
Storer was sitting in his Explorer outside Sumos Thai when Wilson approached him with a large silver handgun it turned out to be a BB gun and demanded money. When Storer said he didn't have any, Wilson ordered him inside the restaurant.
On the way in, prosecutor Jalal Harb said, Storer slipped $2,000 in cash from his pocket into the wheel well undetected.
Wilson got only $15.23, then fled when Storer dialed 911. Storer then locked the restaurant door, Harb said.
"The threat was gone," Harb said.
Storer was agitated on the 911 recording, which was played for jurors. He felt like he had just brushed past death, defense attorney John Fitzgibbons said.
"I've just been robbed, 301 E. Twiggs St.," he said twice. He struggled to recall the name of the road Wilson ran down.
There was rustling next, perhaps Storer getting in his car. He took the restaurant's cordless phone with him.
"You there?" the operator asked. "You there?"
The line went dead.
Storer caught up with Wilson on Polk Street. An assistant medical examiner, a forensic engineer and a police detective said Storer intentionally used his car as a weapon against Wilson.
Fitzgibbons pushed the theory that Wilson ran in front of Storer's path as Storer traveled anywhere between 20 and 35 mph. Fitzgibbons was skeptical that the state's experts could conclude anything more from the fuzzy surveillance tapes, which did not capture the entire sequence of events.
Wilson's body landed on a sidewalk about 39 feet away from where he was hit.
Robert Hendrickson Jr., the security guard who called 911 from the nearby federal building, told jurors that Storer said he was glad Wilson hadn't noticed the money he stashed by the tire.
Worried about his restaurant, Storer gave Hendrickson his keys, vehicle registration and driver's license, then ran back to Sumos Thai.
From there, he called 911 again.
"I just ran somebody over," he said evenly on the recording. "I need someone now."
Storer explained what had happened, how he had been robbed and then chased the man. He spelled his name, gave his contact number and asked what he should do next.
"I just don't want to be held liable," Storer said. "He's probably dead.
"Do I wait in my restaurant or do I go back to the crime scene?"
Meanwhile, Wilson was declared dead at the scene of the run-down. Investigators also initially mistook the replica handgun as real, and they found a bag of money in Wilson's pocket and the red bandana he had used as a mask.
They also found a woman's missing debit card, but the defense was not allowed to share that information with jurors.
Today, Circuit Judge Barbara Fleischer will decide how much jurors can hear about a previous armed robbery committed by Wilson. The state continues to object to such testimony about the victim's background.
Outside the courtroom Tuesday, Augustus Wilson, 46, didn't make excuses for his son. Shantavious Wilson had served time in prison for the prior robbery, carrying a concealed firearm, being a felon in possession of a firearm and committing a lewd act on a child.
He had struggled to find work after prison, despite his brick mason training, the father said. He had grown frustrated and needed money.
But Storer "had two or three minutes to think," Wilson said. "That's plenty of time to think about what you're going to do. But I guess he went with the very first thing that went through his mind. He wanted payback.
"And he got it."
Colleen Jenkins can be reached at (813) 226-3337 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
[Last modified August 2, 2006, 05:59:11]
[an error occurred while processing this directive]