KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Two juvenile boys probably ambushed and killed 16-year-old Stanley Freeman in February as he left Austin-East High School, just one violent moment from a spree of incidents in January and February, a judge ruled Thursday.
However, Knox County Juvenile Court Judge Tim Irwin said he wasn't through deciding if Rashan Jordan, who turned 15 in September, and Deondre Davis, now 17, should be transferred to face prosecution as adults in Knox County Criminal Court.
Irwin said the pair were entitled to mental health evaluations paid for by the state. The court and defense attorneys had been waiting for clearance to ensure the teens could get the paid evaluations.
The judge said the defense now can hire experts to study Jordan and Davis. He set separate February hearings to review the expert reviews and decide if the teens should be kept within the juvenile system or sent on to adult court.
Defense attorneys argued Thursday during the probable cause hearing that the state had little actual evidence linking their clients specifically to the crimes they're charged with.
Family and friends of the defendants and Freeman packed Irwin's courtroom Thursday. After the more than four-hour hearing, some of victims' supporters traded barbs and accusations with the grandmother of one of the defendants outside the building.
WBIR is naming the juveniles because of the severity of their alleged crimes.
Jordan was 14 and Davis was 16 the afternoon of Feb. 12, when Knoxville authorities say they fired repeatedly at Freeman as he drove away on Tarleton Avenue from Austin-East in his Honda Accord.
Several bullets hit Freeman, including one that passed through his chest and killed him. He crashed his car on nearby Wilson Avenue, and the teen assailants fled in a late-model blue Nissan Altima, according to police.
They didn't attend Austin-East, testimony showed
Freeman's killing was but one violent episode involving Jordan and Davis, the state alleges.
Authorities suspect they fled the night of Jan. 12 from a Knox County deputy who spotted a stolen Hyundai in the Cathedral Lane neighborhood where at least one of the teens lived. A deputy testified Thursday he saw Jordan and another male in the car, gave chase but that they ditched the vehicle near Magnolia Avenue and fled on foot.
Authorities allege they stole a Knoxville area man's Honda Pilot the next day from his home and used it during an armed confrontation Jan. 14 that started near Austin-East.
Eighteen-year-old Azley Mills, an Austin-East student at the time, testified Thursday she was leaving school with her boyfriend JohnKelian "John John" Mathis, 17, when Jordan and Davis began shooting at them.
The prosecution alleges the pair, with another young man inside, were in the stolen Honda. Mills said she recognized Jordan and Davis through their social media posts.
Mills testified Mathis drove them to a nearby Exxon where the shooting continued. Mathis's car had two flat tires by then and the back window had been shot out, she said.
Prosecutor TaKisha Fitzgerald played video for Irwin that captured the sounds of repeated gunfire volleys from the encounter.
Mills said she suffered glass in her eye and an arm wound. Mathis survived the January attack but would be killed Aug. 8 in a shooting that also wounded two others in the Lonsdale Homes area.
Tanner Rice, the owner of the stolen Honda Pilot, told Irwin when his vehicle was stolen it had no bullet holes. When it was recovered, it had several bullet holes, he said.
Rice also testified he discovered someone had docked their iPhone to the Honda's infotainment system under the name GoKrazy after it had been stolen.
'NO REASON AT ALL'
Fitzgerald told Irwin that Davis and Jordan killed Freeman "for absolutely no reason at all."
More than 15 shell casings were found in the area where Freeman was shot as he drove on Tarleton, testimony showed. A rifle and a Glock pistol were used in the shootings.
The prosecution alleges the weapons were found later in the Cathedral Lane home. The Nissan, featuring a latent print from Jordan, was found later abandoned near an apartment complex on Washington Avenue, KPD Investigator Phil Jinks testified.
Further testimony showed Jordan was interested in buying ammunition for the rifle the day Freeman was killed.
Two days after Freeman died, Jordan also shot and tried to rob a 19-year-old marijuana dealer named Ka'Juan Bullard in an East Knoxville church parking lot, authorities allege. Bullard said Jordan shot him in the bicep, resulting in nerve damage. He told Irwin he promptly stopped selling marijuana and hadn't been charged with a crime.
The judge noted to the defense and prosecution that the multiple inter-related petitions and motions filed by the state were the most he'd had to review in his more than 15 years on the bench.
Fitzgerald did announce the state was dropping one set of petitions against the young men that alleged they'd shot up a man's house on Woodbine Avenue on Feb. 7. The decision followed an appearance by a reluctant 14-year-old witness whose recollection of events from that month appeared to change after she was called to the stand by Fitzgerald.