Police believe that Bendy accompanied Rahkeem Lamone Goldstein to the park, looking for a rival gang member. KLTV reporter Holly Gonzalez is in the courtroom during the trial in Judge Jack Skeen, Jr.'s courtroom, and will continue to post updates as the trial proceeds.
Smith County DA Matt Bingham opening remarks for the State:
Dennis Bendy is being prosecuted under the law of parties. (The law of parties states that one who aids and abets a person who commits a crime can be held criminally responsible for that crime.) Bendy was the driver of the Elantra that parked at PT Cole Park on the night of the shooting. He drove the shooters to the scene, and he fired eight 9mm rounds in a public park.
Bendy traded his car (a silver Lincoln) for one that others wouldn't recognize while he was at the park.
He aided and assisted Elisha Williams in the crime. Briana Young was a victim of gang crossfire. That's why we are here, Bingham concluded.
The defense reserved their opening.
The state called its first witness: Brent Davis, a Texas Ranger in Tyler.
Davis said he did a walk-through at the park and looked for evidence using a special camera. It scans using additional lighting and rotates 180 degrees. It does not pick up what is directly under the tripod. He says he was not a part of evidence recovery, he only did the scan.
The defense cross-examines Davis:
Davis says he was there the day after the crime. The crime scene was secure when he arrived.
The state called its second witness: Detective Chris Miller of the Tyler Police Department. Miller is a gang intelligence officer.
Miller says there are gangs in Tyler, and he collects gang data and uses it to prosecute gang members.
Bingham asks what gangs claim the territory around PT Cole Park. Miller says the West Side Crips. He does not know if Darrian Lee is a documented gang member. He does know Elisha Williams is a documented gang member, belonging to the West Side 60s Rolling Crips.
He says Rahkeem Goldstein and Dennis Bendy are also members of West Side 60s Rolling Crips, which fall under the umbrella of the West Side Crips. He says Anthony Bendy is an 8-Tray Gangster, also under West Side Crips.
Miller says gangs throw hand signs to communicate association. Graffiti also communicates intimidation in an area. "Throwing up" means throwing up your hand sign in a picture or public setting, Miller says. "Claiming" means membership. Gang members are loyal to an extent, he says.
The Defense objects to photos of Bendy submitted by the state. Judge Jack Skeen, Jr., overruled and all were admitted.
In the pictures, Bendy is seen to have a tattoo of money, power and respect on his right shoulder. He has a handgun tattoo, usually a symbol of intimidation, Miller says.
In another photo, Bend and others were displaying the "West Side" gang sign. Elisha Williams, in another, is displaying the West Side symbol. He throws it in several other photos, as well.
Miller says the West and North Side Crips have a long history of hating each other. Miller also says he uses social media to investigate gangs.
The court recessed for lunch. _________________________
2:00 p.m. The court reconvenes.
Defense attorney Rex Thompson begins with an objection: Members of the audience are wearing shirts bearing Briana's picture and are attempting to influence the jury.
Judge Skeen overrules, saying it is an open and free trial.
Cross-examination of Detective Miller by attorney Rex Thompson:
Thompson: Tattoos are common in our culture, both criminal and non-criminal. Bendy does not have a Butler College tattoo like Williams. Goldstein has a 60s tattoo, but Bendy does not. Hurd (from a rival gang) has an "H" for Hoover Crips; Bendy does not.
Det. Miller: Bendy has no gang identification tattoos. He is not pictured throwing gang signs.
State calls its next witness: Jessica Sherman
Sherman says she works at Food Fast gas station at 805 West Houston Street. She worked there at the time of the crime, as well. She authenticated surveillance video from her store that was collected for the case.
State calls next witness: Kiara Cain
Cain works at Azalea Trails. She went to middle school with Briana Young. Elisha Williams is a family friend; he goes by EJ, she says. Dennis Bendy goes by Coo or Coo Coo. She says she knows him through friends. Rahkeem Goldstein goes by Booby, and she knows him, as well. She says she does not know any of them to be gang members. Cain says she saw Bendy and Goldstein on the night of the shooting.
Madeline Wallace is a friend of hers. Goldstein is Madeline's boyfriend. She spoke to Rahkeem and met up with him on the night Briana was shot, Cain says.
Madeline drove a white Hyundai Elantra. Bendy has a Lincoln.
In the Elantra, she and Madeline went to Food Fast. Bendy and Goldstein were there in the Lincoln Bendy was driving. They met him there because Rakheem asked for Madeline's car. They traded cars.
Bendy drove the Elantra when they left. She and Madeline went home, but picked up Javante Amy and dropped her at her aunt's house.
The men met up with them at Peach Street to give them a cd. Madeline left later that night in the Lincoln and came back in the Elantra.
Jaylon Cane, Kiara's younger brother, told her about the shooting.
Cross-examination by Defense attorney Thompson: Cain tells the defense she has known Madeline for about two years. She saw Rahkeem at about midnight after the shooting. State calls next witness: Madeline Wallace
Wallace said Rahkeem was her boyfriend. He is a member of Rolling 60s street gang, she says. Dennis Bendy is also a member. Wilson Hurd is a member of 5 Deuce Hoover Crips. She says she knows these people through Rahkeem.
Wallace confirms she had a white 2013 Hyundai Elantra on the day of the crime. She says Rahkeem called her and asked her to switch cars for the rest of the evening. He asked her to meet him at the Food Fast on Houston and Vine.
She says she did not know her vehicle would be used for a crime. They switched vehicles and she went to Peach Street with Kiara Cane.
She says she did not want Rahkeem to drive because "he was not in the right state of mind." She asked Bendy to drive.
At Peach Street, they stopped to get a CD from her car and into the Lincoln. She says she went home then.
Later she spoke to Bendy and he gave her directions to the house where he and Rahkeem were. It was after 10 p.m. The shooting had already occurred. She knew there had been a shooting, but did now know who was involved.
Rahkeem was in her car and Bendy was standing by the driver's side door. She exchanged keys with Bendy. He did not say anything to her. She got into her car and left with Rahkeem to go back to Peach Street. He asked her to drop him off there. Cross-examination by defense attorney Rex Thompson: Thompson asked why Rahkeem was "not in his right mind." Wallace said because he was under the influence.
The state calls its next witness: Ryan Gummer, accident investigator with Tyler Police Department.
Officer Gummer explains a diagram of the park displayed by the state. He also talks about what evidence was found at the park.
The state calls its next witness: DeShayla Pierce, age 19
Pierce says Briana is the mother of her nephew, and that she goes by the nickname Sista. Briana asked her to meet her at the park on July 30, 2013. She says she does not know Bendy. She says she knows Hurd through a friend. He goes by KJ, and she does not know if he's in a gang.
She went to school with Darrian Lee. She says he does not have a gang affiliation. She went to school with Elisha Williams, as well. He goes by EJ. She also went to school with Rahkeem Goldstein.
She said she was there during the shooting. She says KJ had a gun and had his arm back like he was shooting, but he did not shoot. DA Bingham asked where Briana went when shooting began, and Pierce broke down in tears. She said she saw a small car pull up and start shooting.