BRADENTON — After a shooting that set off a scene described as “total chaos,” witnesses testified Wednesday that former Lakewood Ranch quarterback Tim Brooks, the accused in the case, looked calm.
Even after numerous people asked Brooks why he shot 19-year-old William White Jr., he showed little emotion, Brooks’ former classmate Brody Kraft testified.
“A bunch of people asked him, ‘Why did he do it?’ He just shrugged and said, ‘I don’t know,’” Kraft told the jury.
Brooks, 19, is accused of shooting White on July 13, 2008, in a robbery along 27th Avenue Drive East, and is charged with first-degree murder and robbery with a firearm. If convicted, he will spend the rest of his life in prison.
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Brooks has denied shooting White.
Prosecutors say White was riding in the passenger seat of a car driven by Jakob Cunnien, and the pair had gone to the neighborhood where the shooting occurred to buy drugs.
After buying Xanax pills, Cunnien stopped his car to talk to Kraft, and Kraft began angrily accusing Cunnien of a past burglary of his home, according to witnesses.
Kraft was one of six witnesses who claimed to know Brooks prior to the shooting, and testified they saw Brooks approach Cunnien’s car during the confrontation between Cunnien and Kraft, and point a revolver at White through the passenger side window. They all said they later heard a gunshot from the passenger side, but none said they saw Brooks pull the trigger.
Another man, Cody Rogers, 19, who is also accused of murder in White’s death, approached the car and pointed a gun at Cunnien through the driver’s side window, Kraft and others testified.
The witnesses later told Brooks’ attorney, Assistant Public Defender Peter Belmont, that they saw Rogers cock his gun and a bullet flew out of the gun from the chamber onto the street, but they did not hear a gunshot. Prosecutors say Rogers never fired, and he is charged with murder because he aided in the robbery that led to White’s death.
Cunnien also testified, saying he watched Brooks point a gun at White, and he heard a gunshot from the passenger’s side direction as he hit the gas pedal to get away. He said he tore his shirt off and gave it to White to try to stop the bleeding as he drove his friend to the hospital. White later died from a gunshot wound to the neck, a medical examiner testified.
Another witness, Brian Peterson, testified he sold Xanax pills to Cunnien before the shooting, and after the drug deal Peterson said Cunnien started to leave the neighborhood but stopped.
Cunnien stopped when Kraft approached the vehicle and confronted him, then Brooks approached the passenger side of Cunnien’s car and pointed a revolver at White, Peterson testified.
Peterson said Rogers then approached the car and robbed Cunnien, while pointing a gun in his face. At that point, Peterson said, a gunshot went off as Cunnien squealed his tires trying to drive off.
“Basically, it was total chaos,” Peterson said.
Peterson said Brooks fired the shot, but Belmont confronted Peterson with testimony he made to authorities after the shooting in which he said he did not know who fired.
“I’m not sure. That’s the thing, I didn’t know which gun went off. I just know somebody’s gun went off,” Peterson said in the recorded statement.
Belmont also grilled Peterson and Kraft about their actions after the shooting. Peterson left the area in a car with Rogers, and the pair drove more than 140 miles to Clewiston where Peterson admitted Rogers threw his gun in a lake. Peterson said he also dumped a gun he owned on the street there.
Peterson acknowledged he feared he, too, might face charges when authorities captured him and Rogers in Clewiston days after White’s death. “So basically you cut a deal. They told you if you provided testimony, you would not be charged,” Belmont said. “The word that was used was ‘immunity.’”
“Yes,” Peterson answered.
Belmont also asked Kraft if he feared being arrested after the shooting because he and several other witnesses hid a gun, a chain stolen from White and a bag of pills they said Brooks asked them to stash after the shooting.
“Your name started to come up in connection with this, and you were on your way to school on a football scholarship. And you didn’t want anything to happen to that, did you?”
“No,” Kraft said.