BRISTOL, Va. (WJHL) — The Officer Johnathan Brown murder trial entered its fourth day before a 14-person jury on Monday.
A Bristol, Virginia policeman’s testimony revealed that on the morning Jonathan Kohler was fatally shot in March of 2021, five officers responded to the scene at the Roadway Inn, but only four made contact with Kohler.
Officer Eric Hinchey testified that he along with four other officers — identified as Brown, Stine, Sizemore and Carty — were having coffee and snacks at a Sheetz gas station when four people called dispatch to report shots fired.
Of the four calls to dispatch, two callers reported seeing a white or silver pickup truck leave the scene after sounds of gunfire rang through the area. Officers never found a vehicle to match the description, however.
As the four other officers, including Brown, teamed up to respond to the motel, Hinchey worked to block off the surrounding the scene, he testified. Hinchey noted in court that he did not witness the shooting; he had been monitoring the surrounding area.
Hinchey started to head to the scene when he heard “stress” in Officer Carty’s voice as he communicated with dispatch regarding Kohler’s driver’s license. Then, Hinchey heard that shots had been fired. The officer arrived at the scene at 3:23 a.m., pulling up behind Kohler’s Mustang, which had crashed into another vehicle in the motel parking lot.
As Brown worked to tape off the scene, Hinchey remained on the outskirts and deterred a motel guest who allegedly returned to the area several times out of curiosity. While Hinchey walked the man back to his room, the officer met a woman who identified as Summer Cooke.
Previous testimony identified Cooke as Kohler’s girlfriend, and the two had exchanged text messages to each other prior to the officer-involved shooting. Those messages allegedly included threats from Kohler to “shoot up the motel.”
Hinchey testified that when he identified Cooke, he kept contact with her to direct her to Virginia State Police (VSP) as a witness. VSP agents arrived at the scene at 4:31 a.m., according to previous testimony from BVPD’s Darrell Milligan.
The Commonwealth, which rested its case after two days of presenting evidence to the jury, cross-examined Hinchey in court Thursday. The exchange in court revealed that dispatch never mentioned to officers that additional shots had been fired — only the gunfire from the four calls into the communication center.
However, BVPD Chief John Austin took the stand and testified that if multiple callers report that they hear gunfire, the department policy calls for officers to respond as if it is an active shooter situation.
Also discussed on Monday were the results of a toxicology screening done on Kohler. Expert witness and toxicologist Dr. Trista Wright took the stand and said four drugs, including methamphetamine, had been identified in Kohler’s system based on blood samples.
Wright, who said she specializes in DUI cases, told the court that there is a presumptive level of meth that can be present in the human body while still safely operating a vehicle. However, she said the level of meth in Kohler’s system was roughly ten times over that limit and could have been “a lethal dosage” in some cases.
The Commonwealth rested its case against Brown last week.