Physical evidence corroborates self-defense claim in neighbor shooting, police say

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The Fort Worth police investigation into a deadly shooting that left a 57-year-old man dead last month has been turned over to the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office for a grand jury presentation.

Police were sent to a shooting call at a duplex in the 7600 block of John T. White Road on the afternoon of March 25. They found Kevin Battle lying on the ground in front of the suspected shooter’s door with a gunshot wound to the head. The medical examiner ruled that Battle was shot twice — once in the face and once in the back of the head.

Battle’s next-door neighbor, Mark Jabben, was detained for questioning, police said.

“The detectives found that the victim and the suspect had been arguing for over a week, and that on the date of the shooting Jabben made a comment to the victim’s grandson,” Officer Jimmy Pollozani said in an email to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “Battle went to Jabben’s front door to confront Jabben about speaking to his grandson and a very brief argument ensued. Battle is believed to have attempted to enter into Jabben’s residence during the argument when Jabben fired three shots, striking Battle in the head.”

Police said on Friday that Battle was not armed.

A voice message left for Jabben was not immediately returned.

Battle’s son, Kevin Battle II, said that a week before the shooting, Jabben called his father by a racial slur. Battle II said a police report was made about the incident.

The Star-Telegram requested a copy of that police report and a spokesperson from the department told the newspaper to make an open records request. The open records request has not been filled as of this reporting.

Battle II said his father’s relationship with the neighbor was up-and-down.

“My dad used to help the neighbor,” he said. “If he was drinking, he would help get him in at night. The neighbor totaled one of his cars and my dad helped him. He was always willing to help people.”

After the shooting, Jabben called 911 and reported that he shot Battle, Pollozani said. Battle II said that during the shooting, Battle was holding the hand of his 5-year-old grandson. He said he was able to see his father and son during the confrontation, but because of the duplex’s layout, could not see Jabben.

Jabben and Battle’s front doors are on the same wall about a foot apart, Battle II said.

After he saw his father fall to the ground, Battle II said, he grabbed his young son and ran to a neighbor’s house, where he also called 911.

“Jabben was interviewed in reference to the shooting, but was released due to the self-defense claim and the physical evidence located at the scene which corroborated that claim,” Pollozani said.

Battle II said he was interviewed in a detective’s car. He said his son was also interviewed.

On April 3, homicide detectives met with the district attorney’s office. The DA agreed to present the case to a grand jury.

The DA’s office agreed with detectives that Grand Jury review is the appropriate path moving forward with the case,” Pollozani said. “This is the same process and standards the Homicide Unit has followed in similar cases where self-defense claims can be corroborated by physical evidence.”

Battle’s family still questions the narrative of what happened.

“We believe that it is the job of the police to be the voice of truth and we don’t have a full account of what occurred, only this new statement which does not at all line up with my uncle’s character,” said Kyle Warnsley, Battle’s nephew. “He would have never put his grandson’s life at risk by bringing him by the hand with intentions to force his way into the residence.”

Warnsley also questions Jabben’s motive.

“Furthermore, what we know is that (Jabben) verbally harassed my uncle’s grandson and then when my uncle shows up with him by the hand at the door, in order to understand what was actually said, (Jabben) comes to the doorway with his gun ready to shoot?” Warnsey wrote. “This sounds like my uncle was baited into a situation that only (Jabben) knew would become fatal.”

The Texas penal code says a self-defense claim is presumed reasonable when someone unlawfully and with force enters or tries to enter that person’s occupied home, vehicle or place of business or employment.

Pollozani said that throughout the case, the detective has remained in contact with Battle II and has worked with him to ensure he and his son have access to advocacy groups and counseling.

“We sympathize with the victim’s family and understand the public’s interest in learning the facts of the case,” Pollozani said. “Homicide detectives are doing their due diligence and investigating every aspect, as is standard in all homicide cases.”

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Nichole Manna is an investigative reporter for the Star-Telegram. Before moving to Fort Worth in July 2018, she covered crime and breaking news in Tennessee, North Carolina, Nebraska and Kansas. She is a 2012 graduate of Middle Tennessee State University and grew up in Florida.