COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Friends of DaVon Capers testified on behalf of their late friend Wednesday afternoon, as the man accused of fatally stabbing their friend is retried for his murder.
Capers, 17, was killed in the parking lot of a Lexington Cook-Out restaurant in February of 2014. Students had gathered at the restaurant as a local “hang out” spot after a rivalry boys-basketball game between Dutch Fork High School and Lexington High School.
Investigators believe Kierin Dennis stabbed Capers as he was standing with a group of friends near Dennis’ driver’s side window. On Wednesday, the jury heard testimony from Michael James, a friend of Capers who was present when he was stabbed.
James is captured on surveillance video exchanging words with a group of Lexington High School students, including Dennis, as he walks out of the restaurant and toward his car. He told the jury he didn’t remember saying anything to initiate the conversation. Instead, he said a member of the Lexington group said something to him first.
“I just looked back because they said something to me so I kept walking until I felt safe to say something back,” James said. “It is what, four of them and it was just me so I kept walking until I felt safe on my own ground to respond back to them.”
Shortly after they exchange words, surveillance video shows dozens of students pouring out of the restaurant and into the parking lot. James testified under cross-examination he did not know why students began congregating in the parking lot.
As he walked toward his car, he testified, Dennis and his friends walked to where they parked. Before James got into his car, he said he saw a Lexington High School student come to a stop in the middle of the road with his window down and throw a fistful of cash onto the ground.
“He said something like, ‘that’s all you guys are worth,’ and threw out the money,” said James. “He drove off and I was paying attention to a couple of classmates who ran out in the road to gather the money.”
Shortly after, James testified, another car accelerated toward the students in the street collecting the money off of the ground. He said the driver, later identified as Dennis, braked before hitting anyone.
“There was a group of people at the car so I couldn’t really see anything,” said James. “I knew there was some arguing going on but that was about it. He drives off aggressively and Cap runs. That’s all I can remember.”
Defense attorney Todd Rutherford strongly questioned James’ story on the stand, pointing to inconsistencies in what James initially told investigators about what happened, what he has previously testified to and what he testified about on Wednesday. Many of Rutherford’s questions were met by “I don’t know,” or “I don’t remember,” from James. Rutherford played a portion of James’ interview with Lexington Police for the jury, highlighting the discrepancies in his recollection.
James said he was under “trauma” for months after his friend “bled out in front of me,” and didn’t remember much of anything he said to the police.
Testimony is expected to continue on Thursday. Defense attorneys continue to argue Dennis acted in self-defense after Dutch Fork High School students at Cook-Out the night of the stabbing instigated the altercation, causing Dennis to fear for his life. Prosecutors contend he was upset about Lexington High School losing the basketball game earlier that evening and wanted to take it out on a Dutch Fork student.