April 29, 2014

Arlington man on trial in fatal shooting after wrecks

Defendant Thomas Harper is on trial on a murder charge in the death of an 18-year-old Arlington man who was shot as he tried to help Harper and two toddlers after a wreck in 2011.

Thomas Lester Harper was laughing as emergency responders pulled him from his wrecked Chevrolet Tahoe on North Collins Street in Arlington more than two years ago, a Tarrant County prosecutor said Tuesday.

Harper had just caused a series of collisions, one of them fatal to the driver.

And he had just fatally shot Clarence Robinson, an 18-year-old who ran up to help Harper and the children in the Tahoe escape the wreckage, prosecutor Amy Collum said.

Other people who had come running to help started running away when they heard gunfire, Collum said. But one man stopped to pick up Harper’s 2-year-old daughter, Nadia, who had fallen on top of Robinson.

The man lifted Nadia, her clothes soaked in Robinson’s blood, and ran from the wreck, Collum said.

Harper is on trial this week on a murder charge in the shooting death of Robinson on Dec. 14, 2011. The maximum sentence is life in prison.

Harper has also been indicted on a manslaughter charge in the death of Najee Nasir, a Marine veteran, who was killed when Harper’s Tahoe hit Nasir’s pickup moments before the shooting. That case is pending.

Prosecutors and witnesses described the series of wrecks that ended in the 2400 block of North Collins Street near Brown Boulevard.

Zachary Treible testified Tuesday that he was driving a 2005 Hyundai Elantra with his fiancee, KayLynn Head, in the passenger seat. They were stopped at a red light when a blue Chevrolet Tahoe clipped the right rear of their Elantra. The Tahoe didn’t stop after the crash and didn’t stop for the red light, Treible said.

Treible said he followed the Tahoe at more than 40 mph to try to get its license number but lost it for a few seconds as it went over a hill. When Treible crested the hill, he said, he saw that it had apparently struck a pickup.

When he spotted the Tahoe again, Treible testified, “The front end was smashed. A couple of larger vehicles were hit.”

Treible said he and Head stopped to help. Head went to a gray Dodge Dakota pickup. Treible approached the Tahoe. Two children were in the back seat crying, and he reached for one of them.

Treible said he was aware that another man was at the driver’s door.

The driver pulled out a small black revolver and pointed it first at Treible and then at the other man, Treible testified.

“ ‘This is your bad day,’ the driver said. I just froze and said nothing,” Treible testified.

The man who had approached to help didn’t have time to say anything as the driver pulled the gun and fired, Treible said.

“He was falling as I ran off,” Treible said.

The trial continues Wednesday in state District Judge Wayne Salvant’s Criminal District Court No. 2.

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