The jury might have confused non-lawyers — and some lawyers too — when they found Devon “Chiefman” Charles not guilty of murder, but guilty of possession of a firearm, with intent to murder.
After three years on remand, the 38-year-old Block 2000 was on Tuesday freed of a murder charge — his fourth such charge — in connection with the Aug. 2, 2020 shooting death of Kimron Hannaway, 28, aka “Warlord” and “Dog Man”, in the Old Montrose community.
The case against Charles, who was facing his fourth murder charge, hinged on the evidence of Paula Straker, his neighbour.
The jury, however, did not believe her account on the murder charge, but found Charles guilty of possession of a firearm with intention to commit an offence, to wit murder.
Charles did not mount the stand in his defence neither did he call any witnesses to testify on his behalf.
Justice Brian Cottle summarised the case against Charles on Tuesday, at High Court No. 1, in Kingstown.
The 12-member jury deliberated for just under three hours before returning their verdicts.
According to the judge’s summary of the evidence, Constable Emmanuel Morgan was on duty at the main police switchboard on Aug. 2, 2020 when a female telephoned the emergency line, saying there was a shooting at Block 2000.
The caller said she had heard four shots and “Kimron” was on the ground and people were running.
Detective Sergeant of Police Kasankie Quow was among officers who responded.
On arrival at the scene, Quow observed a man lying in the yard. He appeared to be dead.
The man had a short cutlass in his right hand and Quow saw two spent shells, which he secured.
Quow said that while at the scene, he was notified that a male was seeking attention at Dr. Ackie’s clinic at Arnos Vale. That aroused his suspicion and he instructed Sergeant Simon to look into the matter.
Sergeant Asquith Simon testified that when he got to Dr. Ackie’s clinic he saw a red jeep parked with lawyer Grant Connell in the driver seat and Charles in the front passenger seat.
Connell waved to Simon and reassured him there was no need to rush, saying he had Charles with him.
During the conversation, Simon learnt that Charles was waiting for medical attention. The officer said he told Charles then and there why they were looking for him. The accused, having been cautioned, said he had nothing to say as he had a lawyer.
Simon said that Charles’ left hand was wrapped in a small hand towel. Connell took photos when Charles removed the towel but when he (Simon) tried to take photos, Charles blocked him by shifting his body away.
After the doctor attended to Charles’ injuries, Simon took him to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and handed him over to detective Corporal Millington.
Meanwhile, Dr. Ackie told the court that he was at his walk-in clinic at Arnos Vale when a male came in for attention.
The doctor said he had never seen the man before. The man had a wound to the anterior lateral aspect of the left forearm that was 6cm long and 3cm deep. The skin was violated and some of the skin had been removed.
Charles also had a laceration to the temporal area of his head, which was 2 inches deep.
The doctor sutured the wounds.
Detective Corporal Westfield told the court about a 38-minute electronic interview with Charles, who was present with his lawyer.
During the interview, detectives asked Charles if he had anything to say. The accused said the only thing he had to say was that he made a report about a chopping incident.
“As far as I know, I was chopped. When I was chopped, I ran to seek medical attention.”
During the interview, Connell asked Charles if he had made a report and the accused said he made a report about the chopping incident.
Asked by Connell if there was anything else he wanted to say, Charles said nothing else.
Westfield asked Charles questions but he remained silent.
Statement to police
Also, during the electronic interview, Millington told Charles that he had made a statement and she showed it to him.
She read the statement, which said Charles stated his name and address and a description of his house — which is unfenced — and its location.
He said he owns “three big pit bulls” two of which are female and recently had puppies at different times.
Some of the puppies reach the stage where they can be sold.
“I know Warlord of Block 2000 since I was a little boy. He is a crazy man. We don’t speak. We are not friends or enemies because he used to trim my yard for me.”
According to the statement, on Aug. 2, 2020, Charles was sleeping at home after sunrise when he was awoken by a voice calling “Chief!”
When he went outside, he saw two guys who said they had come to buy puppies. While outside, Charles noticed Warlord down the alley with a cutlass in his hand.
“He began beating my brown mother dog. The dog was making noise. I can’t tell how much times he hit the dog with the cutlass. As far as I know, when I went to sleep, my dog was in its pen. It was a wooden pen.”
Charles shouted out to Warlord and asked him what he was doing to his dog. Warlord said that Charles had his bad dog let go and it nearly bit someone. Charles said he told Warlord that he was a crazy man because the dog was tied.
He said Warlord pelted a bottle at him from about 25 feet away, but he dodged it and told Warlord that he was a crazy man.
The statement further quoted Charles as saying that during this time, the two men who had come to buy puppies were watching what was taking place.
Charles said he was in the alley also because he had come out of his yard after the men came to check him.
“Warlord then rush up on me and raise the cutlass as if he was going to chop me but did not at that time. I cannot recall which hand he had the cutlass in. When he raised his hand to chop me again, I raised my left hand to block the cutlass from hitting me in my face. The cutlass end up hitting me on my hand. I saw my bone exposed. I held my left hand with my right hand and felt another chop connect to my left side head … I started running. I run straight down the road in the direction of Victoria Park to go to the hospital.”
The statement said Charles said that a car, which an age-able man was driving, slowed down and asked him what had happened.
“I told him a man now run me down and chop me up,” Charles said, adding that he did not pay attention to the car and did not know the old man.
“The man told me I should go to a private doctor because my wounds look serious. Going to hospital is a waste of time. The man gave me a ride out to Dr. Ackie in Arnos Vale. I wrapped my hand in a grey rag and when I reach out to Dr. Ackie I asked him if he can dress my wound. The old man did not go to Dr. Ackie. He just gave me a ride and go. Dr. Ackie told me he would deal with me; I must hold on outside.”
The statement further quoted Charles as saying that while waiting, he went outside and called his lawyer, Grant Connell and told him he was badly wounded.
Connell told him he was at a gas station nearby and would go to him shortly.
The statement spoke about Charles receiving medical attention and his interaction with the police officer. He said that while on the bench at CID, a police officer told him he was there on suspicion of murdering Hannaway.
He said that before the police officer spoke to him, he had told Quow that he wanted to make a report about Warlord chopping him in the head and on his left hand.
“I don’t know that Warlord dead because he chopped me and I ran.”
Charles said he knows that when his dogs get away, they would attack other dogs but not people. He, however, said if people come into his yard, the dogs would attack them, the statement further said.
After Millington read the statement to Charles, she asked him if he wanted to add or take anything away from it. He remained silent.
Dr. Ronald Child, the pathologist, testified that the cause of Hannaway’s death was a gunshot wound to the head. There were injuries to the body
The pathologist said he did not see soot or stippling, indicating there was a distance of more than 4 feet between the muzzle of the firearm and the victim’s skin.
Child said one bullet had gone through the brain and the extent of damage to the brain was not compatible with life.
Key witness’ account
Meanwhile, Straker, the key witness, told the court that on Aug. 2, 2020, she was leaving home for church about 9:45 a.m..
She saw in her yard a dog she recognised as belonging to Charles.
Straker, who testified by video link, said she told her son to go tie the dog. She did not know if her son did but she did not see the dogs again.
The witness had to pass Charles’ house to get to the road. She had not yet passed his house when two of the pit bull dogs jumped on her and she began to scream, saying, “Why don’t they come and tie the dog.”
She said Charles came out of his yard, asked her where the dog had bitten her and she showed him her right knee. Charles said he saw, Straker told the court.
By then the dogs had gone back into Charles’ yard.
Straker testified that Warlord, who had been trimming her yard, had come to try to save her and was moving the dogs away, “planning them like with a cutlass”.
Charles was not there when Hannaway came to rescue her, but afterward, when she screamed, Straker said.
Charles asked Hannaway why he had planned or chopped the dog and Hannaway said he was only trying to save Straker and none of the dogs were chopped.
Straker testified that Charles picked up a malt bottle and pelted it at Hannaway. The bottle did not strike Hannaway and he ran into her yard and Charles pursued him.
Straker said she ran into her outside kitchen and stood by her fridge. The kitchen door is in three parts with one part at the bottom and two parts at the top.
She said nothing was blocking her from seeing the interaction between Charles and Hannaway.
The witness said that after she went into the kitchen, the bottom part was closed and the two parts at the top were open.
She said saw Charles at the top of her steps and Hannaway below him on the ground. They were “having like a little misunderstanding” when Charles took down a black gun from under her spouting and shot Hannaway, Straker told the court.
The two men were “having like a little argument like”. Hannaway had a cutlass in his hand but did not do anything with it, Straker said. “I don’t recall what they were saying.”
She told the court she could not see what Hannaway was doing when Charles reached for the gun but Hannaway looked “stonish”. She heard three shots and Charles ran into Miss Tannis’ yard after shooting Hannaway.
Straker ran out of her kitchen and over to her neighbour’s house and could see Hannaway was lying there.
She said that when Charles reached for the gun, he shot Hannaway “one time” (presumably meaning immediately).
After Charles ran into another neighbour’ yard, she ran into the house next door.
Straker said that when she got to the neighbour’s kitchen, she saw the neighbour’s girlfriend, the neighbour’s girlfriend’s daughter and her (Straker’s) daughter in the sitting room and she (Straker) also sat in the sitting room.
Straker said that after some time, Charles came back from where he had gone, broke the window, came into the kitchen and told her that his mother wanted to talk to her.
She told Charles that she was not coming out. When Charles came back to the neighbour’s house where Straker was, he had nothing in his hand.
After Charles left, Straker also left and ran to church at Dasent Cottage, she told the court. She said she was supposed to be an usher that day and when she got to church, the service had already started.
She told an usher something had happened and then spoke to a woman, telling her what had happened. Straker said she did not stay at church as she went to the police station at Old Montrose and gave a statement to the police. The woman she had told what happened went with her.
Straker told the court she has been living at Block 2000 for over 25 years and has two children living with her.
Charles and her children are friends, she said.
During cross examination by defence counsel Duane Daniel, Straker told the court that she has known Hannaway for a long time but did not know how he got the name “Warlord”. It was the police who told her his legal name.
She said she knew Charles as “Cheifman”. He is her neighbour and went to school with her first daughter. The two children still living with her — a daughter and a son — and Charles are friends. They grew up together.
Straker said that Charles had visited her home before because she had come home and met him there, but he was not accustomed to visit when she was there but she knows that he visited her house.
She said when she was getting ready for church on Aug. 2, 2020, both of her children were at home.
Straker said that when she first noticed the dog, she was in her house and saw the dog outside and asked her son to go and tie it. Her son told her the dog would not bite her.
She said she went outside knowing that the dog was not tied but by that time her son had gone away. Straker told the court that her daughter was at home, but said she could not recall what her daughter was doing at the time.
Daniel reminded the witness that she had given a statement to the police on Aug. 2, 2020, which they read back to her and she signed.
Straker also gave a statement on Aug. 24, 2020 and another on Nov. 25, 2020 and she confirmed that they were here statements.
The witness agreed that on Aug. 2, 2020, she told the police the dog scraped her on her right foot and “strawn” her stocking.
The lawyer put it to Straker that she had a scratch. She, however, told the court that the dog bit her and her foot was bleeding.
The lawyer showed her that in her statement of Aug. 24, she said her right foot had a scratch.
Straker said she told the police this, but the dog bit her and her foot and it was bleeding.
“I still have the mark,” she said in response to the lawyer’s question.
She said when Warlord came, he had a cutlass in his right hand and was brushing the dogs away.
She agreed that in her statement to police on Aug. 2, 2020, she said that Warlord was planning the dogs.
Straker, however, told the court was nervous and frustrated when she gave that statement. She testified that Hannaway was blocking the dogs and pushing them away from her with the cutlass. He was not hitting them, she said.
She agreed that she had told the police, “While I was screaming, Warlord came to my assistance. He started hitting the dogs with the cutlass. I was scared and frightened and was screaming.”
The witness further said in the statement that while she was outside on the road, Hannaway was either planning or hitting the dog and it was then that he first saw Charles.
She said Charles, who was wearing only his boxers and was barefoot, had nothing in his hand. He asked Hannaway why he was planning the dog, Straker said, adding that this is the misunderstanding that she had spoken about earlier.
It was put to Straker that Charles saw when Hannaway was planning the dog. She responded that Hannaway did not plan the dogs.
Straker said she did not hear what the two men said to each other and that Charles had spoken to her first and asked her if the dog had done anything to her.
The witness, however, said she was not sure that when Charles asked her that he was showing concern for her.
She said the way he came out and the expression on her face did not communicate that he was showing concern for.
Straker said it was Charles who pelted the bottle at Hannaway, saying, “Boy, you chop up my dog.”
Asked by the lawyer, Straker said she did not see Hannaway chop Charles on his head or hand.
“After the bottle was fired, Chiefman was chasing Warlord. I did not see him with anything in his hand after he had finished pelting the bottle. While he was chasing Warlord, Warlord still had his cutlass,” Straker said, adding that both of the men went towards her home.
She said she was left in the road and the two men ran around the house and went through her yard.
She said she could not recall how far she had gotten, “but it was close range”.
Straker told the court that it was not Hannaway chasing down Charles, as the lawyer had suggested, but the other way around,
She said that although she was late for church, she went back to see what was going to take place behind her yard and ran into her kitchen.
Daniel asked Straker who won the race and she said she reached the kitchen first.
The lawyer also asked the witness if she overtook the men, she said she did and ran into her kitchen and saw what happened from there.
Straker said the kitchen is small, one way in and out, and only a few feet in either direction.
She said that when Charles was at the steps, her son was there. And it was at this stage that the witness said that her daughter was also in the kitchen, but was sitting below.
Daniel suggested to her that she had said something untrue earlier.
Straker said; “I did lie to you earlier when I said I was alone in the kitchen. But I was traumatised.”
The witness said she forgot that her daughter was in the kitchen with her.
She said that her daughter was in the kitchen but saw nothing as she was stooping down at her feet.
“I was there. I wouldn’t come and tell a lie. She was stooping down by my foot all the time. After the incident she came out the kitchen and went to [the neighbour’s] house after she heard the gunshots.”
Straker said she could not remember if she told the police this in her statement on Aug. 2, 2020.
“I saw Chiefman shoot Warlord in his head. I told the police I saw him shoot Warlord three times in the head.”
Daniel asked her if she said that to the police on Aug. 2, 2020.
“I said Warlord did not do chief man anything before he was shot. I did not see him to anything to Chiefman at all. I am a church woman. Did not see Warlord do Chiefman nothing with the cutlass. That is the gospel truth,” Straker said.
Straker agreed that she testified in the matter before a magistrate in Calliaqua and that she had sworn to tell the truth there.
The transcript of her evidence (deposition) before that court was put to her and Straker said she spoke the truth to the magistrate.
She agreed that the events would be fresher in her mind on Aug. 2, but could not recall if she told the police in the statement that Warlord chopped had Chiefman.
Straker said she did not say that to the police.
The lawyer asked her if the police made it up and Straker said she could not say if they did.
Straker was asked about the second statement she gave to the police three weeks later and if she remembered telling the police that Warlord had chopped Charles.
She said she remembered telling the police in the second statement that Charles was cut by Warlord.
The witness, however, told the court that everything was so clustered and she was scared.
“No one can know how I feel. I didn’t see that Warlord cut Chiefman.”
Straker said she saw when Charles shot Hannaway and to her, that was more traumatic than seeing someone get cut.
Although Straker was not asked, she said Warlord came like an angel to save her and Charles killed her angel.
“I feel for Warlord. When you do something wrong, you should be punished,” Straker said, adding that if she had done something wrong, whether in the presence of man or God, she, too, deserves to be punished.
Regarding Straker’s claim that her daughter had left the kitchen before her, Daniel asked her about her daughter washing clothes. The lawyer said that Straker had left her daughter in the yard hanging out clothes.
Straker was shown pictures of the clotheslines running from the house.
But before she could comment on the pictures, she said, “My angel has to get justice.”
She identified in the photo the clotheslines with clothes on them, the kitchen, and bucket with laundry she said her daughter was going.
Straker said that all she knows is that when she got to the kitchen, she met her daughter there. She said she was standing by the fridge and her daughter was stooping by her knee.
She said she did not recall whether she told the police her daughter was stooping down in the kitchen.
The defence lawyer asked Straker if she told the magistrate that her daughter was in the kitchen with her.
Straker said it was then that she remembered (as she was testifying) that it was not mentioned at all before the magistrate.
The magistrate commented that in fairness to Straker, witnesses who testify before the court respond to questions that they are asked. He said it is not known if Straker was asked about her daughter being there.
Straker said she did not know that her daughter gave a statement to the police but found this out later. She said she does not know the contents of her daughter’s statement and if they match.
Straker said she was doing her best but the incident happened so fast, it was like a drama. She, however, agreed that she told the police that it was about an hour after she was at the neighbour’s house that Charles came there.
The witness said that no one telephoned her on her way to church telling her that Hannaway was shot as she had seen it for herself.
Straker said that if she told the police that Hannaway had chopped Charles it was because she was frustrated and traumatised by the incident and was affected by what she saw.
The witness said she told the police she was really traumatised and devastated by what she saw and if she told the police that Hannaway had chopped Charles, it was because she was traumatised because the police had kept her for quite some time asking her questions.
Charles will be sentenced on Oct. 19 for possession of a firearm with intent to commit an offence, to wit murder.
The Crown was represented in the trial by Tamika Mc Kenzie-Da Silva, an assistant director of public prosecution, and crown counsel Rose-Ann Richardson and Maria Jackson-Richards.