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Witnesses Recount Seconds Leading To Shooting Deaths At Tailgating Party

Posted August 8, 2005

— In the fourth day of testimony Thursday, attorneys continued to focus on the few seconds leading up to the shooting deaths of two men at a tailgate party during the 2004 Labor Day weekend.

Prosecutors are trying to prove that Timothy Johnson, a former North Carolina State University student charged with two counts of first-degree murder, acted with criminal intent and knew exactly what he was doing when he shot and killed two men on Sept. 4, 2004. If convicted, Johnson could face the death penalty.

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  • Defense attorneys are trying to get the charges dropped to second-degree murder and want to show that Johnson was acting impulsively, in defense of his brother, Tony Johnson.

    Witnesses have testified that Tony Johnson challenged a group of men to a fight after they got mad at him for driving erratically in a crowded parking lot.

    Nicholas Baker, a friend of Timothy Johnson, recounted Thursday morning for the court how seven or eight men, including the victims -- Kevin McCann and Brett Harman -- followed Tony Johnson back to his tailgating area.

    "It was just unexpected," Baker said. "I didn't know what to think when I saw the gun. It was out of nowhere."

    He said Timothy Johnson asked them to leave -- first politely and then with stronger words.

    "It was something like, 'You guys need to get the f--- out of here,' or something," Baker said.

    And then, Baker said things got out of control.

    "Tim had made that -- he had threw the bottle at the guy and it felt like, to me, that was the boiling point for the guys to come at him," he said.

    Soon after that, Baker said he saw Timothy Johnson pull a gun out of his waistband, lift it into the air and chamber a round. He heard a shot and heard Harman fall to the ground.

    Baker testified that he saw McCann try to restrain Johnson, who still had the gun in his right hand.

    "I didn't see exactly where he pointed the gun," Baker said. "As soon as I saw it come across his chest, I knew what was probably going to happen."

    Friends of the victims, who were there with them when they died, also testified about the shootings. As hard as they tried to stay composed, however, they could barely keep their composure.

    "When I ran up to him I was praying that the bullet had went over his head or his neck and he was just down," said Sean Mulkerrin, a Chicago police officer. "When I got there, he had some blood on his face and there was no movement in his eyes."

    It was difficult for Navy pilot Ricky Knowles, who attended naval academy with Harman, to look at a photo of the victims that was taken at the party. It was the last photo taken of them alive.

    After the shooting, Knowles cradled Harman, as he lay wounded on the ground.

    "I just kept telling him to keep breathing, that help was on the way," Knowles said. "Just keep fighting, keep breathing -- he was."

    Knowles rode in the ambulance with Harman to WakeMed and was with him when he died.

    He then had the task of calling family and friends to let them know what had happened.

    "I walked back to the sitting room and just got out my phone and tried to think of who to call first," Knowles said.

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