Jury Seated in Murder of HS Hero Zaevion Dobson

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Chattanooga Times Free Press (Tennessee)


A jury was seated late Monday afternoon in the trial of three young men accused in the slaying of a Fulton High School football player posthumously labeled a hero after friends say he died shielding two girls from a hail of bullets.

A jury of six men and six women -- all white except for one man and one woman -- was tapped Monday in Knox County Criminal Court in the trial of Christopher Drone Bassett, 22; Richard Gregory Williams III, 23; and Kipling Colbert Jr., 22, in the December 2015 shooting death of 15-year-old Zaevion Dobson.

Dobson was gathered with friends outside a home in Lonsdale when at least two carloads of young men arrived and gunfire ensued. Dobson's friends told authorities he was fatally shot as he tried to shield two girls.

Heroism honored

Dobson's death became a symbol for street violence and gun crime across the nation and, in Knoxville, an indictment of gang violence. Then-President Barack Obama cited Dobson's death in his State of the Union address.

His slaying also spurred a host of posthumous honors, including the prestigious Arthur Ashe Courage Award presented to his family at the ESPY Awards in July. In April 2016, state lawmakers gave final approval to a bill to rename the Heiskell Avenue bridge over Interstate 275 in the teen's honor. A memorial park and playground in Lonsdale Homes is another honor.

ESPN also released a documentary earlier this year on Dobson.

Prosecutors TaKisha Fitzgerald and Phil Morton contend Dobson was an innocent victim of a war between two street gangs -- one affiliated with East Knoxville and the other Lonsdale. Defense attorney T. Scott Jones, who represents Bassett, contends the impetus for the shooting was not a fight over gang territory but instead an argument over the affections of a young woman.

Although police have amassed enough proof to suggest Colbert and Williams were affiliated with a gang, Jones has repeatedly noted in motions and in court that police have no evidence Bassett, a high school graduate who had been attending college, was a gang member.

Surprise announcement

All three young men face charges of first-degree murder in Dobson's slaying and eight counts of attempted murder involving others gathered outside the Lonsdale home where Dobson was killed. Prosecutors are expected to argue that it doesn't matter who pulled the trigger under a legal theory known as criminal responsibility.

Under that theory, anyone who helps carry out a crime is just as guilty as the person who actually carried out the crime.

But Fitzgerald revealed late Monday in a brief hearing before Criminal Court Judge Steve Sword that she intends to present proof linking a bullet fragment recovered in Dobson's fatal shooting to a gun found in Williams' possession in a related shooting involving a potential witness.

That shooting occurred in April 2016 in the parking lot of Townview Terrace apartments on Hall of Fame Boulevard near Summit Hill. Williams was convicted in that case of shooting his friend and fellow alleged gang member Larry Eugene North because Williams believed North had turned police "snitch" in the investigation of Dobson's death.

North survived the shooting and, according to Fitzgerald's statements, will be a witness in the Dobson slaying trial.

Bassett has told police that Colbert was with him, Williams and Brandon Perry when the trio, along with at least three other young men, showed up in Lonsdale. Bassett, who said he fired into the air and not in the direction of any of the young people gathered outside the home, told Knoxville Police Department investigator A.J. Loeffler that Perry wanted to exact revenge for a shooting hours earlier at Perry's mother's home.

Perry's mother was struck by the gunfire. Perry himself was slain in another retaliation shooting soon after Dobson was killed. His slaying remains unsolved.

Although witnesses reported at least a half-dozen shooters, only Bassett, Williams and Colbert have been charged.

Opening statements are set to begin this morning.

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December 5, 2017


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