Murder trial opens in case of accidentally slain boy

Joshua Banks

Joshua Banks

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Tijuana Shambry had just lain down for the evening when she heard arguing and firecrackers -- no, sounds too loud to be firecrackers -- ringing from the parking lot. Curious, she kept low, creeping from her bed to the window. Then, from down the hall, her young daughters wailed: "Tre's bleeding!"

The mother of three darted across her second-story apartment to her son's room. There Tre lay, beside his triple-decker bunk-bed, a bed big enough to store his clothes and accommodate his football buddies on sleepovers. She dialed 911 and directed her daughters to gather towels from a linen closet. They did what they could until EMTs and police rushed in, but Tre, the eldest child at age 13, could not speak, and would never share another word with his mother, Shambry testified Tuesday.

"I can see the bullet hole in him," she testified, referring to Tre's abdominal wound.

Watching in a white dress shirt at the defense table was murder suspect Joshua Banks, a 27-year-old man who lived in the same city but had never met the Shambrys. Banks is accused of drunkenly fooling with a .40 caliber handgun in the Holland Park apartments parking lot the night of Jan. 18, 2010, and firing several shots in the direction of the family's apartment, including the fatal shot that burst through Tre's window as he peeked out.

Assistant District Attorney Karen Harris told jurors in the trial's opening phase that Banks admitted to a Gwinnett police sergeant he'd fired the gun and accidentally killed the boy. That confession, however, was not taped, because it came during a smoke break on a patio outside the interrogation room, Harris said.

The sergeant had been at Gwinnett Medical Center when the boy died, and his retelling of those events got Banks' talking, and he later copped to the shooting on tape, Harris said.

To the contrary, Banks' attorney, Xavier Dicks, told jurors "this so-called confession" had no merit, in that it came after grueling interrogations that had left his client tired and "beat down."

Banks faces life in prison on counts of felony murder and weapons possession.

Gwinnett police blanketed the apartment complex with fliers and issued a reward but were stymied until a suspect in an unrelated case mentioned Banks. He was arrested in connection with yet another case in July that year, and initially blamed the shooting on someone named "Kebo," who Banks claimed was among his group of revelers in the parking lot, Harris said.

Banks' first version of events was that he came to the apartments to inquire about a TV and laptop from a man he called "Pizza," or Steven Brown, who is expected to testify, Harris said.

"No one will say anyone other than (Banks) possessed or fired a gun that night," Harris said.

Harris told jurors the case doesn't fit the mold of a traditional, malicious murder, and she posited that that's irrelevant. Banks, a convicted felon, handled the weapon in such a dangerous manner he should've known someone could get hurt, she said.

Dicks appeared to be bent on convincing jurors that his client was not the shooter, rather than arguing the shooting was an accident undeserving of a murder conviction. He asked jurors for an acquittal.

"The evidence is going to show that no one knows -- and will never know -- who fired that shot," Dicks said.