Tajh Ross Testifies He Accidentally Shot, Killed Roundtree

By Trish Mehaffey, The Gazette

Tajh Ross testified Friday he knew he didn't shoot Latasha Roundtree Sept. 22, 2012 because he shot over the car.

Ross, who rested his chin on his left hand throughout his testimony, said he never shot at the car that night.

“So it's your testimony that somehow your bullet you fired in the air went straight into the car?” First Assistant Linn County Attorney Nick Maybanks said.

“I pulled up (the gun) and fired,” Ross said.

“You're saying it's an unfortunate lucky shot,” Maybanks said.

“Yes.”

Ross, 20, is on trial for 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. She was with two friends heading to a party where Ross also was that night. Roundtree wasn't targeted that night but she was the only victim, according to testimony.

The defense rested after Ross took the stand Friday. Closing arguments will be at 9 a.m. Monday in Linn County District Court. The trial started July 15.

Ross told a different version of events Friday than he related in two police interviews, which were played Thursday in court.

Ross said there was never anybody trying to sell guns, as he told police. Liban and Yasin Muhidin, other defendants, brought the AK-47 and the .40 caliber he used that night, he said. He said Liban Muhidin and Adrian Kenney, another defendant, carried over what he thought was the AK-47 to the abandoned house across the street from 649 16th Ave. and put it in a plastic storage bin. He didn't mention anyone using it.

Ross said Freddy Hanson, who testified last week, told the group someone made a threat to “shoot up” the house and when he saw a white car stopped on the corner of Eighth Street and 16th Avenue, Hanson said “that's dude” and they all ran across the street to 649 16th Ave. Ross then said he saw Yasin Muhidin with a handgun and he took it from him.

“I didn't want him to do something crazy,” Ross said.

Ross said Yasin Muhidin walked toward the alley and Ross followed, along with some others, and he planned to leave. He said Jeremiah Ellis stayed across the street and he didn't know where Hanson and Kenney were at that time. He said Liban Muhidin came up behind him and said “hold up.”

The white car was slowly coming down the street and Ross told Liban Muhidin to watch out. Ross said the white car stopped in between 649 16th Ave. and the house to the east. He could see the back passenger window was down and he saw a reflection of a light in the car.

Ross said he raised his gun and fired. He said he was protecting Liban Muhidin because he thought someone in the car would harm his friend. Ross said he fired one shot in the air and ran into the alley. Then, he said he heard gunshots, so he fired four or five more in the air.

He said he then ran back toward the house and saw Liban Muhidin, who told him to “ditch” the gun. That's when Ross said he tossed the gun at the garage next door, where police recovered it. He said he and Liban Muhidin ran into Ellis as he was approaching a car driven by his girlfriend Alleigha Church Green, another defendant. They all headed to the Wal-Mart parking lot to meet Yasin Muhidin, but they stopped along the way and Ellis threw out his backpack with his revolver.

Doug Davis, Ross' attorney, asked why he wasn't honest with police and why it took him almost two hours to give his version of events during an interview.

Ross said he was scared and worried about retaliation against his family.

Maybanks on cross said “you know you're the one who killed her.”

Ross said he didn't.

“You were the one with the .40 caliber?” Maybanks said.

Ross said yes.

“You're saying you didn't see anyone shoot at the white car, except you?” Maybanks said. Ross agreed but said he didn't shoot at the car.

Maybanks said Ellis fired his gun and then the other shots were his.

Ross agreed.

“Nobody shot at your friends,” Maybanks said. “Nobody shot at you. You never saw a gun shooting from the white car?”

Ross said no.

“But you were shooting in defense,” Maybanks said.

“Yes sir,” Ross said.

Maybanks said Ross told police ‘why would he shoot a gun at a car because someone could die.'

“Isn't that what exactly happened?” Maybanks said. “You fired at the car and now Latasha Roundtree is dead, right?”

“Yes,” Ross said.

l Comments: (319) 398-8318; trish.mehaffey@sourcemedia.net

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