Conway, SC - CONWAY, SC (WMBF) - A 23-year-old Lumberton man accused of being the triggerman in a May 2007 shooting in Myrtle Beach has been found guilty on four different charges by a jury Thursday night.
Following eight hours of deliberation, a jury found Brian Spears, 23, of Lumberton, guilty on one count of murder and three counts of assault and battery with intent to kill for the murder of 22-year-old Aaron Hammonds and the shooting of three bystanders.
Circuit Court Judge Larry Hyman sentenced Spears to a 30-year life sentence for the murder charge and 20 years for each of the assault charges. The sentences will run concurrently, and spears will get credit for three years he has already been in prison. Spears will spend 27 years in prison without possibility of parole.
About five hours of deliberation was used by the jury to return to the courtroom to listen to taped recordings of testimony given during the trial.
Spears was accused of opening fire on four people in the early morning hours of May 27, 2007, while visiting the area for the Memorial Day Bike Rally. Three of the victims survived, but the shooting proved fatal for Hammonds, also of Lumberton.
Police said Spears and a group of friends came to the Myrtle Bach area for Memorial Day Bike Rally festivities and ran into a group of young men they did not like near 11th Avenue North.
Hammonds, who was also from Lumberton, had come with friends to Myrtle Beach separately from Spears.
During the trial, Assistant Solicitor Donna Elder told the jury Spears had a score to settle with Hammonds and after seeing Hammonds on Ocean Boulevard, Spears took the opportunity to settle that score.
Elder said Hammonds was previously convicted in connection to the murder of Spears' friend Eric Floyd in 2004. Hammonds had just gotten out of jail two months earlier and Spears wanted to get even with Hammonds, Elder alleged.
Defense attorney Barbara Pratt argued another person with Spears shot Hammonds. Among the group of friends with Spears in Myrtle Beach was Nathanial Douglas and Jeffrey Bethea. Those two men are also facing charges in the death of Hammonds, and Pratt said Bethea was the more likely trigger man.
In testimony Thursday, Pratt called an eyewitness to the stand who came to Myrtle Beach with Hammonds.
Alexis Brown told the jury she believed the gunman's hair was in dreadlocks. Pratt pointed out that Spears has never had dreadlocks, but Bethea had worn his hair in dreads for years.
Deandre Bishop, who shared a jail cell with Bethea, also testified in defense of Spears.
"[Bethea] told me that he did it but he wasn't going down by himself," Bishop said in testimony.
Spears took the stand to defend himself, and said he was with Bethea and other friends when they passed Hammonds and his friend on Ocean Boulevard. Spears said Bethea later went back in Hammonds' direction.
"He just takes off. He didn't run; he just took off at a fast pace," he said. "I was still spectating cars, and the next thing you know I hear 'boom, boom,' and I took off."
While Spears was on the witness stand, Elder asked him about his own gun, which he said he gave away to a friend.
"You didn't think it was important to give your gun to police to have it tested?" she asked. "[It] could have exonerated you [if the murder weapon] wasn't your gun, but you didn't give it to police did you?"
"No ma'am," responded Spears.
In her closing argument, Elder also addressed the eyewitness accounts. She said Brown and another witness who said the gunman had dreads also thought he was wearing red. Bethea was not wearing red but Spears was, Elder explained.
"Both of them [said] 'he was wearing red,'" Elder said.
Elder also shared rap song lyrics Spears wrote while in jail after Hammonds was killed.
"Somebody killed my homey, and I gotta ease my pain, and the only way to do that is to squeeze my thang. The madness that I'm feeling is driving me insane. I can feel it. It's called murder. It's in my veins."