LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) - The state called on eight more people to testify on day two of the jury trial for Andre Hastings. As we previously reported, Hastings faces one murder charge and one attempted murder charge for a fatal shooting that happened in August of 2019. Drequan Burglar lost his life in the incident.
Tuesday was the first day of the trial. Seven people testified for the state. The defense did not call on any witnesses to testify when given the opportunity and Hastings did not testify on his own behalf, which is his right. The defendant is innocent until proven guilty and the burden of proof is fully on the state.
The state called on Debra Cochran to testify first Wednesday morning. She lives at Romney Meadows and the crime scene was located outside the back of her apartment. She testified that she was woken up in the middle of the night by the sound of people having a confrontation. She said she heard two male voice and potentially a woman's. She called 911 after hearing two gunshots.
The court played her 911 call for the jury. She told the operator that she was hearing a girl screaming outside her apartment. She said during the call that she did not know what was going on but she knew it was bad. She said to the operator that she could see a body in the grass.
During cross-examination by the defense, she could not remember being questioned by police later in the morning of August 2nd. She became overwhelmed while on the stand with nerves and said she didn't want to be there testifying because it brought what happened that night back up. After taking a few breaths, she was able to tell defense attorney Scott King that she saw two people standing on her back patio video taping what was going on after police had arrived. She was then dismissed from the courtroom.
Dr. Darren Wolfe testified next. He is a forensic pathologist medical examiner who conducted the autopsy on Burglar's body. The state showed four photographs of Burglar's body from the autopsy examination. In one photo, you can clearly see a gunshot wound on the right side of his chest below the nipple. In the next photo you see the exit wound was on the left side of his body above his hip.
Because of the different locations of the wounds, Dr. Wolfe said the gun was pointed downwards when it was shot. After a question from King, Dr. Wolfe confirmed that there are several reason why a bullet would have a downward path, such as the victim being shorter than the shooter or if the victim's torso is leaning forward.
The internal exam revealed the path of the bullet through Burglar's body. He said it entered between the 6th and 7th rib into the right lung. It hit his diaphragm, liver, the abdominal aorta, the left kidney and exited the body. The abdominal aorta is the largest blood vessel in the abdominal cavity. Dr. Wolfe said the bullet hitting the liver and important blood vessels were fatal wounds.
Dr. Wolfe also explained how he is able to determine what range the gun was shot at based on the wound. He said in this case, it was most likely shot at an indeterminate range, which is three feet or more. However, he said the wound can be deceiving. In shots fired at less than three feet, there will be soot or gunpowder particles on the skin. But if the victim has clothing on, it can act as a filter blocking any residue from reaching the skin. He said he is strict in only analyzing what he has in front of him, and Burglar did not come to him with a shirt on since it was cut away at the scene.
Finally, Dr. Wolfe was asked by the state if he knew what kind of gun was used in this case based only on the wounds. He said out of the roughly 300 homicides he has done autopsies for, 90% or more are handgun wounds. He said this wound is consistent with a handgun wound, but he can't say that with full confidence. He said the skin on people's bodies reacts differently to wounds based on things like age, weight and ethnicity.
Next, the state called WLPD Officer Cassandra Wolfe. She worked at LPD on August 2nd, 2019 and was one of the first officers on scene that morning. She testified that she saw a crowd gathering around a male on the ground. The jury watched a clip of her body camera footage as she approached. She goes to the body, which is face down on the ground. She checked for a pulse and lifted the shirt to see the wound on his back.
After the video ended, she said she flipped Burglar over to see if there were any wounds on the front. She cut his shirt off and applied chest seals to the wounds. These are pieces of plastic with strong adhesive that sticks to the body. She said it helps prevent air from getting into the chest cavity, which can be fatal. She said she continued with chest compressions until the medics arrived. She also found and ID on his person.
She remembered that the family was very distraught after experiencing the traumatic situation. She went with Burglar's body to the hospital where she acted as security for the body.
Courtney Carter testified next. She is a paramedic with the Tippecanoe Emergency Ambulance Service. She was dispatched to the scene that night where she found Burglar laying on his back with the chest seals. She said he did not have a pulse and he was not breathing.
She said they used a bag valve mask to give him CPR breaths and they used a mechanical device called the thumper to give him chest compressions. She said they use the thumper so it will free up the medics hands to give other needed first aid. She said they put him on a cardiac monitor and she gave him epinephrine multiple times throughout the night. Epinephrine is a drug that attempts to restart the heart. She said except for any activity shown due to use of the thumper, there was no electrical activity in the heart.
She said while on the way to Franciscan Health Hospital, she would check his pulse every two minutes. She also intubated him with a tube to keep his throat open for air. They alerted the hospital that they had a "Trauma 1" incoming, which means a person with life threatening injuries. She said she never felt a pulse coming from Burglar's body. When asked if she is able to pronounce people dead she said she is, but she didn't in this case because she was hoping that his youth and time would work in their favor. However, it was not meant to be. Burglar was pronounced dead at Franciscan Health.
After a short morning break, Dynasty Durrah took the witness stand. She was Burglar's girlfriend and they lived together at Romney Meadows with their child. She said Jonathan Simpson and his girlfriend had come over that night. There were four children inside the apartment at the time when Burglar asked Simpson to go outside with him so they could talk. Durrah said called for them to come back inside when she heard the loud noise.
She said she worked on getting the kids out of the kitchen and into a safe room before she went outside and saw Burglar on the ground. She said she didn't know of anyone Burglar had problems with and that he had a job working at Wabash National. She said she did not know who Hastings or Michael Robinson were at the time.
A juror asked her if she had seen anyone approach Burglar and Simpson outside and she said she did not.
Next, Mikita Gunnartt testified. Gunnartt lived at Romney Meadows with her mother. She was dating Hastings at the time and was two or three months pregnant with their son at the time of the incident. She said Hastings came to her apartment and she met him outside. She said they had an argument before he walked away. Security camera footage taken from Romney Meadows shows them meeting.
Gunnartt identified Hastings in the security footage for police. He was the person in a white shirt, seen walking up to Simpson and Burglar when he suddenly runs away back the way he came. Footage from around the complex shows him continuing to run south towards his mother's apartment. As we reported yesterday, some of the footage also shows Michael Robinson also running in the same direction. He testified yesterday that he was leaving his girlfriend's apartment when he heard gunshots and started running. He ended up walking the rest of the way to his sister's apartment, who lived next door to Hastings' mother.
The jury submitted four questions they wanted to ask Gunnartt. After a side bar between Judge Steven Meyer and the attorneys, only two were read. One asked if she could describe Hastings' emotions as we walked away from her. She said she could only assume he was upset, since they had just had an argument. Another asked if she could point on a map the direction Hastings walked away from her, which she did, showing him walking towards the area where the crime scene would be.
After a lunch recess, LPD Detective Brian Thomas "BT" Brown took the stand. He was the lead detective on this case. He interviewed Simpson when he voluntarily went to LPD headquarters, still on the 2nd. He remembered Simpson saying the suspect was about 5'5" to 5'7" and could have been a few inches taller than him and estimated his weight to be 130 to 135lbs. The state admitted BMV records for Hastings, which state he was 6ft tall and 135lbs at the time of getting his license. Brown said Simpson described the suspect wearing blue jeans, a zip up sweatshirt and a white t-shirt underneath. Brown confirmed Simpson had not see security footage with Hastings before giving that description.
He was then shown a line-up of mug shots. Hastings was not in this line-up, but Robinson was. Simpson did not pick Robinson in the line-up. As he testified on Tuesday, he said he did the first line-up selection with only 50% confidence. He said second interview with Simpson was done about six hours after the first interview at LPD. Brown went to Simpson's apartment at Romney Meadows with a second line-up that included Hastings. He said this meeting took less than 10 minutes because of how quickly Simpson picked out Hastings from the group. The state played a video of this happening for the jury to see on Tuesday.
Brown said they eventually got Hastings cell phone after Gunnartt identified him. They took the phone to be analyzed by the High Tech Crimes Unit with the prosecutor's office. He said Gunnartt gave them his name on Facebook and they were able to track his location to Carbondale Illinois through Facebook records. Brown said Hastings became a suspect after he was identified in the videos and after they found his phone. Brown said it took several weeks for them to get the information and for Carbondale Police to make the arrest. He was arrested in Carbondale on September 16th, where he was living with his grandparents.
The defense took a lot of time questioning Det. Brown. King brought up the bullet found on a concrete patio in the area of the crime scene. Brown confirmed that he is not certain the bullet is the one that went through Burglar's body or even if it was connected to the case at all. He also confirmed that they did not make any request to the Indiana State Police Lab to have the bullet tested for DNA. As we previously reported, the state lab stopped offering the service because of its low success rate. Brown said for the state that in his 25 years with LPD, he could not recall a case where they found DNA on a bullet.
King then moved on to the suspect description provided by Simpson. He stated in his opening arguments that the description matched that of Michael Robinson more than his client did. He asked if Simpson indicated if the sweatshirt had a front pouch that is common with hoodies you pull over. Brown stuck with the recollection that Simpson said a zip up hoodie. King asked if he remembered Simpson doing a hand motion of putting hands inside a front pouch during the interview, but Brown could not remember. Simpson had left a sweatshirt at the scene that night and Brown confirmed that they did not submit the sweatshirt for DNA testing.
King then dissected Simpson's statements on if physically saw the gun that night or not. Simpson had originally told police that night that he saw the suspect reach for his hip, turned and ran away. However, on Tuesday in court Simpson said he did see the gun on the suspect's person, but did not see it physically in his hand as he had already started to run.
King asked Det. Brown about efforts to find the murder weapon, which ultimately was never found. Brown said they searched Hastings path based on the security camera footage. He said they searched Durrah's apartment with consent and did not find anything. He said they also searched Hastings mother's apartment with consent. King argued that there were clearly two people seen running from the scene in the videos and asked why they did not also search Michael Robinson's sister's or girlfriend's apartments.
King wanted to know why they didn't get a search warrant to search the apartments connect with Michael Robinson after on success to get in contact with the occupants failed. After the state asked some follow up questions about obtaining search warrants, Brown said he has requested more than 1,000 warrants in his career and he has had some denied by the courts. He said he has a good understanding of what has grounds for probable cause and what doesn't, and that he didn't feel there was probable cause in this situation.
Robinson testified that he had heard that LPD was looking for him so he went to the police station. Brown said he arrived around 4 p.m. on August 2nd. Robinson was wearing a black t-shirt and black pants, which he said he had been wearing that night. Brown said he corroborated much of the information they had from their investigation and other witness interviews. He said there was no evidence that placed Robinson at the grassy area where Burglar was shot. His girlfriend's apartment was about a block south of that location. He said Robinson was ultimately ruled out as a suspect.
King pressed more on when police decided to rule him out. Brown said he really went out of the running when Gunnartt identified Hastings in the videos and when they had his cell phone. King insinuated that Robinson knew where several of the security cameras were located and could have been avoiding them to make it appear he was not at the actual crime scene. Brown confirmed for the state that Robinson, who was basketball friends with Hastings, was never a suspect of aiding or abetting in the crime.
The last witness brought to the stand by the state was Sean Leshney, the head of the High Tech Crimes Unit. He analyzed the phone records on Hastings' phone. He explained to the jury that the records tell him when a cell phone tower is being used by a cell phone. He said it does not give an exact location, but only a general area. He also made it clear that this is only look at the phone location and does not necessarily mean the owner of the phone is with it.
Records show that Hastings' phone was in the Romney Meadows area from 12:17 a.m. on August 2nd until 1:02 a.m. The phone then began to move up the I-65 corridor towards Gary when it then went West along I-94. It was in the Chicago area until 4:20 a.m. when it began to move back south back to Lafayette at 5:58 a.m. It remains in the Romney Meadows area until 7:54 a.m. when it begins to go north again up the I-65 corridor. The phone is in northwest Indiana at 8:40 a.m. It's in Gary at 9:47 a.m. and near Merrillville by 1:39 p.m. Leshney said it stayed in Merrillville for the rest of August 2nd, where their records end.
The state rests its case and with no presentations from the defense, the jury was dismissed for the day. The attorneys discussed with Judge Meyer the plan the jury's usage of the videos during deliberation. Judge Meyer said in most trials, he does not allow the videos to go back with the jury. However, he said since this case relies so heavily on the compilation of security footage from the incident, he will allow them to have that video only.
The court will resume at 9 a.m. on Thursday where the state and defense will give their closing arguments and the jury will give a verdict. As we previously reported, Hastings is facing one charge of murder for Drequan Burglar and one charge of attempted murder in connection to Jonathan Simpson. We will have the latest updates from the trial on News 18 at noon.