Ex-UTA student is on trial for shooting and wounding a police officer
A 26-year-old college mathematics graduate accused of murdering a Saginaw high school student testified Thursday that he believed the friends of the fatally wounded teen were coming to get him when he heard police knocking on his door.
According to authorities, on April 23, 2016, two days before Joel Conner McCommon shot Arlington police officer Edward Johnston, he had shot, beaten and killed Jordan Miles, a 17-year-old man just three days shy of his 18th birthday.
McCommon was charged with aggravated assault of a peace officer and is on trial this week for shooting Johnston in the hip.
He may have shot Miles, but McCommon said that at the time of Johnston’s shooting, he did not believe he had killed Miles. McCommon said he believed that a cell phone damaged by gunfire deflected the bullet away from Miles. The cell phone was apparently struck by a bullet, but that bullet still left Miles fatally wounded, according to witness testimony.
McCommon told police officers that initially he was going to sell a small amount of marijuana to a girl that he met online but three men showed up at the place of the sale and those three men had tried to rob him. He later testified that he told one of his professors that he got nervous when he saw African-American men on campus because three African-American men had tried to rob him.
Defense attorney Deric Walpole asked McCommon if he shot Jordan Miles because he believed Miles had a real gun out and was trying to shoot him. Authorities said Miles was using a fake gun.
Later Walpole asked McCommon if he believed the prosecutor fairly portrayed his character to the jury and McCommon said “No.”
“Do you agree that the prosecutor here has tried to paint you as an angry, anti-police, pot-smoking racist?” Walpole asked.
State District Judge Ruben Gonzalez sustained a prosecutor’s objection raising the issue of relevance before McCommon got a chance to answer the question.
McCommon admitted to sending text messages to a friend saying that he needed a gun to protect himself from a tyrannical police force, government and “law dogs”. The messages were sent about 18 months prior to the shootings, McCommon said.
“The liberals fight so hard to keep guns out of the hands of the people,” the text message McCommon sent said. “But what keeps the law dogs in check?”
“I want the same level of protection that they (the police) have,” a text message read to the jury by Tim Rodgers, Tarrant County assistant district attorney, said.
McCommon told Rodgers that he did not think his questions about the text messages were relevant to the case.
“When were these text messages sent?” McCommon asked. “A year-and-a-half before the incident. You don’t think a mind can be changed in that time?”
It was 11 p.m. on April 25, 2016, when McCommon heard a series of knocks at his door that grew progressively louder, according to testimony Tuesday from Chris Stinson, Arlington police officer.
McCommon testified that he called a friend to make sure it was not him and then looked out of his door’s peephole to see who was there, but he did not see anyone.
McCommon said he opened the door about six inches and asked who was there. He could not see anyone but he heard someone yell and quickly closed the door shut, McCommon said.
McCommon said he was unable to lock the door because someone was on the other side, turning the doorknob and pushing it against him.
McCommon demonstrated his actions in front of a mock-up of his front door that was constructed by prosecutors and then stuck his hand outside the door the same way he stuck his gun outside his door when he was confronted by police.
McCommon testified that he fired and one bullet from his gun struck Johnston in the hip. Police officers returned fire and struck McCommon in the left and right arms, and almost immediately he fell down inside the door frame, according to witness testimony.
On the day he shot Miles, McCommon left his 2006 red Nissan Altima where he had struggled with the three African-American men he said were trying to rob him and chased Miles for a short distance, according to authorities. McCommon testified that he was trying to get his gun back.
The fake gun that Miles tried to use to rob him had been dropped in his car, McCommon said.
One witness told police they saw McCommon beating Miles as they ran away, according to an arrest warrant affidavit.
“Have you made mistakes in this case?” Walpole asked.
“Yes sir,” McCommon answered.
“Do you wish you could take them back?” Walpole asked.
“Yes sir,” McCommon replied.
“So does Jordan,” someone in the gallery whispered, barely loud enough to hear.
Closing arguments were scheduled for Friday in Gonzalez’s court.