Documents reveal presence of second shooter
JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — Minutes after a 1 a.m. April 30 downtown shooting that injured two people, police questioned and released a man they’ve now charged in both that shooting and another one four days later.
Documents News Channel 11 obtained Monday also show that the April 30 shooting included a second shooter in addition to Ja Mika Beard, who was arrested Sunday and charged with one count of attempted first-degree murder and two counts of reckless aggravated assault.
During an arraignment Monday in Washington County Sessions Court, Beard’s April 30 two reckless aggravated assault charges were upgraded to attempted first-degree murder at the request of assistant district attorney Justin Irick. Three counts of employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony also were added.
Johnson City police (JCPD) representatives have not publicly commented on the presence of an alleged second shooter during the April 30 shooting, which was followed by a shooting at the Carver Housing development May 4. Beard, 18, is charged with three counts of attempted second-degree murder related to that shooting. Those charges were not amended Monday.
News Channel 11 has reached out to the JCPD for more information on the alleged second shooter from the April 30 shooting on Spring Street.
Beard, of 306 W. Chilhowie Ave., was also out on bond for a December 2021 shooting when police interviewed him on April 30 because he matched suspect descriptions. They cited him for marijuana possession before letting him go.
An affidavit related to the April 30 shooting states that Beard and another shooter were allegedly aiming for a white Kia Soul that passed by on Spring Street as the shooting occurred. “It does appear this was the intended target of the shooting given Beard’s actions,” the affidavit states, yielding the attempted murder charge.
A citation from April 30 signed by an officer Proffitt of the Johnson City Police Department (JCPD) shows he and an Investigator Stillwagon found Beard at Hamilton and Winter streets at 1:17 a.m., a little more than half a mile from the shooting, which occurred at Spring and Tipton streets.
The officers stopped Beard because he “was wearing a dark hoodie and had braided hair that matched the description of one of the males that ran from the scene.” The complaint shows that Beard consented to a search, which revealed 4 grams of marijuana in his pocket. It says Beard was then “transported to CID (Investigations) for questioning about the shooting incident.”
The report includes no further details other than to say Beard was charged with simple possession and “released on a misdemeanor citation.”
Neither the complaint nor the arrest warrants for both the April 30 shooting and a May 4 shooting in the Carver Housing development mention Beard’s other current pending charges of attempted second-degree murder and aggravated assault related to a Dec. 1, 2021 shooting on Montgomery Street in Johnson City.
Beard was out on a $50,000 bond for that charge. At an April 4 hearing, Judge Stacy Street had granted a continuance.
Details: What happened April 30
A warrant charges Beard with one count of attempted first-degree murder and two counts of reckless aggravated assault for the April 30 shooting. An affidavit of complaint says that stray bullets injured two men — one who was standing in line at the Wonderland nightclub and suffered a gunshot wound to his thigh, and another who was in a Hookah lounge across the street when a bullet passed through a window and struck him in the right side.
The victim inside the Hookah lounge was treated at the scene, while the other man had to be transported to the hospital, the affidavit says.
Witnesses told officers the shooter was a tall black male wearing a black shirt with dreadlocks. Additional witnesses told officers during their search that the person had gone west across Buffalo Street toward Wild Wing Cafe. They eventually located Beard a few blocks west of there.
While officers didn’t have sufficient evidence to charge Beard April 30, they later obtained video from multiple downtown businesses. “A comparison of these videos with video of Beard in a police interview room from the same morning reveal Beard as being one of the shooters,” the affidavit states.
“Furthermore, video shows a white Kia Soul driving southbound on Spring St. just before the shooting begins. As the Kia passes, Beard and another individual can be seen crouching behind a parked vehicle.”
Details: What happened May 4
The video from downtown businesses was by no means the only clue the JCPD had about Beard. An affidavit related to the warrants charging him with three counts of attempted second-degree murder and three counts of possession of a firearm during commission of a dangerous felony provides details about that event.
The affidavit signed by a Detective Willis states that two juveniles and an adult arrived at Carver around 3 a.m. May 4 “to switch out to a different vehicle from the BMW vehicle they had been riding around in.”
While they were on Washington Avenue after parking, the three “were shot at multiple times.” The adult was hit in the arm and one juvenile was struck in the leg.
That juvenile told police the person who approached the group was tall with “wide shoulders and thick dreads.” He told police he recognized him as Beard and that he has known Beard for “many years.”
The boy’s mother also told police that when she picked him up, “he told her to take him to the hospital because Ja Mika Beard had shot him.”
Why didn’t they hold Beard April 30?
Beard’s previous charge and the marijuana possession simply weren’t enough to keep Beard in jail even if officers suspected he was the shooter when they interviewed him on April 30, a local criminal justice instructor said.
“You have to have probable cause,” said Eric Stanton, who teaches at Northeast State Community College. “You can’t just stack stuff on top of each other.”
“You can’t say, ‘well we’ve already charged him, so now we found this weed so let’s just go ahead and arrest him and stack it onto the original.’”
Stanton said because the occurrences are separate and because of the presumption of innocence until proven guilty, holding someone for a small offense could be seen as an abuse of the system.
“The prosecution could go before the original judge who granted his bail and say that he’s a risk to society and others and ask to have that revoked, which could happen and quite possibly will happen.”
But when police were interviewing Beard in the early hours of April 30, they hadn’t established probable cause, Stanton said.
“Until they can establish that probable cause, you can’t just lock somebody up on mere suspicion or reasonable suspicion. You can detain them for a reasonable period of time.”
JCPD could have jailed Beard for possession of marijuana, but Stanton said “his bond would have been so low that we would have immediately been back out, so with the exception of detaining him for maybe a few hours, it wasn’t worth it.”