Shooting of Latasha Roundtree was intentional, deliberate, prosecutor says

Defense claims shooting was accidental, no intent

By Trish Mehaffey, The Gazette

The actions of Tajh Ross were not reasonable as he chose to arm himself with a .40-caliber handgun and fire at a car Sept. 22, 2012, a prosecutor said Tuesday during his closing argument.

Ross’ choices were intentional, deliberate and premeditated with malice aforethought, First Assistant Linn County attorney Nick Maybanks said.

“Latasha Roundtree is dead and that’s murder,” Maybanks said.

Doug Davis, Ross’ attorney, in his closing said the state failed to prove intent by Ross. Nobody knows what Ross was thinking at that time, and Ross was trying to shoot over the car, but the gun went off as he raised his arm, Davis said.

“It was a horrible accident, but he never intended to shoot at the car and cause Ms. Roundtree’s death,” Davis said.

Ross, 20, is charged with first-degree murder, intimidation with a dangerous weapon, conspiracy to commit a forcible felony and going armed with intent.

He is accused of shooting and killing Roundtree, 19, while she was a passenger in a car, according to testimony. She was with two friends as they were headed to a party where Ross also was that night.

The defense rested after Ross took the stand Friday. Closing arguments wrapped up the bench, or non-jury, trial that started July 15. Sixth Judicial District Judge Robert Sosalla will file his written ruling and verdict in the next few weeks. If convicted, Ross faces life in prison without parole.

Maybanks said the other defendants and witnesses at the party that night identified Ross as the only person with the .40-caliber handgun and either saw him shoot the gun at the car or saw him pointing it at the car.

“You heard Tajh Ross admit he fired the shot that killed Latasha Roundtree,” Maybanks said.

Maybanks said this wasn’t even Ross’ battle that night. He said Freddy Hanson, who hosted the party, received the threat that night that someone was going to “shoot up” the house. Maybanks said Jeremiah Ellis, another defendant, was involved because Hanson is his brother, but Ross stayed to fight, as he told police he would do in a situation like that.

Liban Muhidin and his brother Yasin, both defendants, brought the weapons to the party. Witnesses said Ross took the .40-caliber and slapped Yasin’s hand away when he tried to get it.

“He wanted to prove his manhood ... his street cred by doing the shooting,” Maybanks said. Maybanks said Ross claimed it was self-defense or in defense of another, but it was premeditated.

Maybanks said Ross crossed the street that night to shoot at the car. If Ross thought someone in the car was going to shoot, they would fire from the right side, nearest to the house, Maybanks said.

The evidence presented by the state is consistent with the audio recording of the shooting, Maybanks said. Ross yelled at Liban Muhidin to “duck” because Liban was in his line of sight.

Ellis fired shots and then ran off toward the alley, and Ross ran between the houses to the garage next door and fired six more shots at the vehicle as it was leaving, he said. On the audio, Liban tells Ross to “ditch” the gun. Ross testified he tossed it underneath the neighbor’s garage.

Davis said the Muhidin brothers brought the guns. He said Ross didn’t know about them until he saw Yasin with the .40-caliber and he took it because he didn’t want Yasin to “get into trouble.” He said Ross crossed the street to leave but still had the gun. Then, he heard Hanson say “that’s dude,” as he saw the car but Liban was in front of him and in danger.

Ross said the car window was coming down and he was protecting Liban, Davis argued. He also said Ross wasn’t an expert with weapons and wasn’t use to handling a gun. Ross told Liban to watch out and as he raised his arm to shoot over the car, it went off.

“It’s not unreasonable that the gun accidentally went off,” Davis said. “He thought his friend and himself were in danger.”

Davis asked the judge to consider how the other defendants’ testimony was self-serving and that they talked to the prosecutor to minimize their culpability and prison time.

Ross wasn’t truthful with police in the beginning because he was fearful for his family, Davis said. All the defendants said they had been threatened and were afraid for their families.

“Ross had no intention to do wrong,” Davis said. “He was trying to protect his friends and himself.”

l Comments: (319) 398-8318; trish.mehaffey@thegazette.com

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