Co-defendant takes stand to describe night of P.T. Cole Park murder

Co-defendant takes stand to describe night of P.T. Cole Park murder

 Day 2 of Dennis Bendy's murder trial got underway Wednesday morning in the Smith County 241st District Court. Bendy is one of three men accused of taking part in a gang-related shootout, the crossfire of which killed 20-year-old Briana Young at Tyler's P.T. Cole Park on July 30, 2013.

Day 1's opening arguments saw District Attorney Matt Bingham describe bendy to the jury as a gang member who lawlessly took a public park and made it a death trap. A gang expert from the Tyler Police Department testified that Bendy is a documented member of the Westside Rolling 60s gang in Tyler. Young's son's aunt, who was at the park the night of the shooting, testified that Young was still alive and gasping for air several minutes after being shot in the chest and leg.

Darrian Lee, an alleged member of a gang that rivals the Westside Rolling 60s, was called into a hearing outside the presence of the jury prior to the resumption of testimony. Bingham told jurors Tuesday that Lee was present at the park on the night of the shooting and that his presence led to Bendy's and co-defendants Rakheem Goldstein's and Elisha Williams' alleged collective decision to fire guns into the crowd at the park.

Judge Jack Skeen, Jr. advised Lee that he had the right under the Fifth Amendment not to incriminate himself and could, therefore, decline to testify for the prosecution against bendy. Skeen also told Lee he had the right to waive that right. Lee elected to waive his right against self-incrimination.

Co-defendant Rakheem Goldstein was also called in a hearing outside the presence of the jury. Goldstein is accused of murder more as an accomplice under the state's "law of parties." He is alleged to have been in the car with Bendy on the night of the shooting but not alleged to have actually fired a gun.

Judge Skeen advised Goldstein of the same rights under the Fifth Amendment. Goldstein said he also elected to testify for the prosecution.

With the jury seated, the first witness called was Amanda Cook. Cook is the Public Safety Administrator for the Tyler Police Department. She is the custodian of records for 911 calls made to the department.

Cook testified that the department received eight 911 calls in reference to the shooting.

Assistant District Attorney Kenneth Biggs introduced into evidence a recording of the third phone call. Judge Skeen then dismissed Cook as a witness.

Biggs called Lee back to the stand, now in the presence of the jury.

"First, let me ask you, are you a gang member?" Biggs asked.

"Yes sir," Lee said.

Lee went on to testify that he was at the park on the night of the shooting, that he knew Young and that he had been with her that night. He testified that K.J. Wilson Hurd, another alleged gang member who was at the park that night, is a friend of his. He said he and Hurd were driving a white Cadillac that night.

Lee testified that he and Hurd went to the park because someone in the larger group of friends that later gathered there called and asked them to come.

As have many other witnesses, Lee made a large diagram for the jury on a transparent overlay of the official park schematic. He drew where he, Hurd and Young were, as well as where the Cadillac was parked.

Lee testified that Hurd was armed, and expressed a concern upon arriving at the park that there might be some Westside Rolling 60s gang members in the park. At the time, Lee said, he was wrong.

Lee said the group he was visiting with ended up at a picnic table on the south end of the park. It was at that point, he said, that he and Hurd noticed the white Hyundai Elantra circling the park. Previous testimony places Bendy in that car around the time of the shooting. Lee said the Hyundai stopped and parked diagonally behind his Cadillac.

It was shortly thereafter that the shooting started. Lee said one shooter was on foot, and that he did not recognize him. He said additional shots were fired from inside the Elantra. He described the pace of the shooting by clapping his hands rapidly.

"What did you do?" Biggs asked.

"I hit the ground," Lee said.

"What about Briana?" Biggs asked.

"I'm not sure what happened to her or [her son]," Lee said.

Lee said his Cadillac had sustained damage from the gunfire, and that Hurd threw his own gun at the Elantra as it drove off. Lee said Hurd's gun was not loaded that night.

After the shooting ended, Lee said he and Hurd left in the Cadillac and were pulled over shortly thereafter by a Tyler Police officer. They were arrested at that time.

"Do you know who the target of the shooting was?" Biggs asked.

"K.J.," Lee said.

"Why?" Biggs asked.

"They always had problems with each other," Lee said.

"Who did?" Biggs asked.

"Him and the Rolling 60s," Lee said.

Lee said he had seen Bendy earlier in the day prior to the shooting. At the time, he said, he did not know who Bendy was. Lee said the encounter happened when he and Hurd were at a gas station, agreeing that there was a "feud" between Hurd and the Westside Rolling 60s.

Lee said there was a discussion of a truce between the factions while at the gas station, and that Bendy appeared to agree.

"Do you think [you and Hurd's] presence at the park that night was in violation of that truce?" Biggs asked.

"Yeah," Lee said.

"Do you remember Mr. Bendy remarking during the discussion of the truce that he 'couldn't control these youngsters?'" Biggs asked.

"Yes," Lee said.

Biggs then passed the witness.

Defense attorney Rex Thompson challenged Lee's claim that the Elantra allegedly driven by Bendy was the same car that was at the park that night. Lee conceded that it was possible it was a different Elantra.

"Can you say for sure that the person who got out of the [Elantra] on Shaw street is the person who fired the first shots?" Thompson asked.

"Yes it was," Lee said.

Thompson asked how close Lee came to the Elantra before it drove away. Lee said he did not recall and could not provide a distance estimate. Thompson asked whether Lee knew who was firing a gun from the Elantra. Lee said he did not.

"And regarding your 2013 failure to I.D. conviction, that's basically lying to the cops," Thompson said. "Is it not?"

"Yes," Lee said.

Goldstein, Bendy's co-defendant, was called as the next witness. Bingham said no deal had been made in exchange for Goldstein's testimony.

"Why are you doing this?" Bingham asked.

"Just trying to do the right thing," Goldstein said.

"Are you a gang member?" Bingham asked.

"Yes," Goldstein said.

"What gang?" Bingham asked.

"Rolling 60s," Goldstein said.

"Are there any other Rolling 60s in here today?" Bingham asked.

"Other than Bendy, no," Goldstein said.

Goldstein testified that he had been involved in the Westside Rolling 60s and known Bendy for three to four years and had become involved out of a simple desire to "belong to something." Goldstein said the Westside Rolling 60s are not terribly organized in Tyler. He testified that he was in the habit, leading up to the shooting, of seeing Bendy two to three times a week.

"What kind of things did you and Mr. Bendy do together?" Bingham asked.

"Hang out, smoke weed, things like that.," Goldstein said.

Goldstein testified that co-defendant Elisha Williams was also a member of the Westside Rolling 60s. He also testified that Hurd was a member of the Five Deuce Hoover Crips and was "not a favorite" of the Westside Rolling 60s.

Golstein agreed that there had been a feud between Hurd and Bendy and that they had seen each other earlier in the day on the day of the shooting. He said Bendy was upset because Hurd had shot at him previously. He said the feud had been in place for approximately six months prior to the shooting at the park.

Goldstein refuted assertions from the defense that Bendy is not a gang member and was not in the Elantra the night of the shooting.

"He was there," Goldstein said.

"How do you know?" Bingham asked.

"I was with him," Goldstein said.

Goldstein identified various members of the Westside Rolling 60s making gang hand signs in photographs. He demonstrated and explained the hand sign in front of the jury.

Goldstein testified that photos showing the silver Lincoln and the white Elantra did depict specific cars belonging to Bendy and Goldstein's ex-girlfriend, respectively.

Bingham displayed a photo of an AK-47 and a Glock 9mm. Goldstein said both guns were in the car with him and Bendy that night. He testified that Bendy fired the Glock repeatedly. Goldstein said he did not fire the AK-47 he was holding himself because he did not know how to operate it.

Goldstein testified that Bendy called him at 7pm on the evening of the shooting and that he "wanted to talk."

"He said that K.J. [Wilson-Hurd] had shot at him that day," Goldstein said. "He was hysterical, upset about it."

Goldstein testified that he met Bendy and others at the home of a friend to discuss the matter, where Bendy told them the shooting had happened about an hour earlier on Earl Campbell Parkway.

"At the time he said 'whenever I see him I'm going to retaliate,'" Goldstein said.

"But how did you end up at the park?" Bingham asked.

"Elisha [Williams, co-defendant] got a call out of the blue," Goldstein said, indicating that the group was tipped off as to Hurd's presence at the park.Goldstein testified that he and Bendy made two stops, one by Stewart Middle School with "a guy named Slick" and another at a gas station on Frankston Highway to pick up the two guns in question. He said no money changed hands and few words were exchanged.

"What were you thinking when you picked up those guns?" Bingham asked.

"I though 'I guess it's gonna go down,'" Goldstein said.

Goldstein testified that Bendy chose to switch cars so as not to be recognized with his Lincoln, which led to the meeting mentioned in previous testimony at the Food Fast on Vine. They convinced Goldstein's then-girlfriend Madeline Wallace to give up her car for the effort, though everyone involved indicated she was unaware of the intent to go and use it in a shooting.

"How did you convince her?" Bingham said.

"I shot her some slick stuff," Goldstein said.

Goldstein testified that he and Bendy left the Food Fast in the Elantra and went to Peach Street to pick up Elisha Williams. Goldstein said plans to "chill with some chicks" were derailed when someone called Williams and told him Hurd was at the park.

"[Bendy] said 'Ooh I'm gonna get that n***a!'" Goldstein said of his friend's reaction to the phone call.

Goldstein testified that upon arriving at the park, there was a discussion in the car of the fact that there were too many people to be shooting.

"But Bendy said 'Nah, I got aim' and stuff," Goldstein said.

Goldstein testified that Bendy concocted a plan to let Williams out of the car so that he could be on the opposite side of the park, thereby trapping Hurd in the event that he tried to flee the impending shooting. He said he and Bendy circled the block several times before Bendy parked, got out, and opened fire. Goldstein said Hurd was the target and there was no intention to hurt anyone else.

Goldstein used one of the transparency diagrams to demonstrate his version of events to the jury. He described the parking of the Elantra diagonally behind the Cadillac, aligning with Lee's earlier version of the story.

"Y'all didn't plan on staying long?" Bingham asked of the parking job.

"No sir," Goldstein said.

Goldstein described the shooting itself, saying that it was a brief set of rapid shots, starting first with Bendy by the Elantra and followed shortly thereafter by Williams from the other side of the park.

"When did you learn that Briana had been shot in the chest and died?" Bingham asked.

"Like thirty minutes [later]," Goldstein said.

Goldstein testified that Bendy decided they should go to a home on Front Street belonging to someone who goes by the street name of "Main.' Goldstein said Bendy wanted to get rid of the guns there.

Goldstein said he did not discuss the incident with Bendy until two or three days later.

"He just said 'Don't say anything. We can beat it. Just don't worry about it,'" Goldstein said.

Goldstein said he and Williams were more upset that Briana had died. He testified as to having felt his life was "about to make a U-turn." Goldstein said within the week he decided to leave for Dallas and "lay low" with a "friend-girl" named Squirtisha Moore. He later left for Atlanta, GA, he said, until hearing from his sister that his name was in the news as a wanted suspect in the murder of Briana Young.
Upon returning, Goldstein admitted he met with and then refused to talk to police interrogators. It was nine days later, in a second meeting, when Goldstein said he started to come clean. At that time, he testified, he was still protecting Elisha Williams by not naming him as being involved.

Bingham questioned Goldstein regarding numerous statements he gave to police that were later proven false. Goldstein indicated that his primary goal during the early stages of the investigation was to preserve bonds between himself and his fellow gang members.

"How do you live with yourself after what you did?" Bingham asked.

"I pray," Goldstein said.

Bingham produced a sealed box containing the AK-47 Goldstein had in the car the night of the shooting. Goldstein said he recognized the weapon after it was removed from the box. The same was done for Bendy's alleged Glock, Williams' alleged Ruger and various stores of ammunition. Goldstein testified that he had led investigators to the discarded guns once he made the decision to begin cooperating.

On cross-examination, defense attorney Rex Thompson asked Goldstein how many lies he's told investigators since the night of the shooting.

"I've probably told a couple of lies," he said. "Lies are lies."

Thompson proceeded to rattle off around ten statements that Goldstein agreed had been false.

"Are you hoping for a lighter sentence [in your murder case] based on your testimony here today?" Thompson asked.

"Yes," Goldstein said.

Thompson questioned Goldstein's previous testimony of having bought Xanax illegally while discarding the guns at Main's house."

"Weren't you in a big hurry to leave?" Thompson asked.

"Yes," Goldstein said.

"But you had time to do a drug deal?" Thompson asked.

"That don't take too long," Goldstein said.

The thrust of Thompson's questioning was to draw attention to what he believes is a credibility problem with Goldstein's testimony. He continued to highlight examples of Goldstein lying to the police. He phrased questions to be critical of Goldstein's apparent womanizing, combined with admitted drug use and the on-the-stand confession to his part in Young's murder.

Goldstein was largely unfazed and continued to answer seemingly without shame.

Thompson asked why Goldstein did not mention Bendy's alleged actions originally when interviewed by police.

"They didn't ask," Goldstein said.

"But you're telling us here today when you think it will help your case?" Goldstein said.

"They asked," Goldstein said.

"So you had nothing to do with any of the plans for what would happen at the park, right?" Thompson said.

"Correct," Goldstein said.

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