Two years have passed since slain high school student Zaevion Dobson’s name became the center conversation on gun violence in Washington, where it was emotionally evoked by President Barack Obama in a 2016 plea for increased gun control. Yesterday, the 15-year-old football star turned national hero was the center of opening statements and testimony as the trial to convict three suspects for their alleged involvement in the 2015 shooting resulting in Dobson’s death began.
It was the last day of school before winter break in 2015, prosecutor Phil Morton said, “but little did Zaevion Dobson know that he would have little more than seven hours to live. Within seven hours, he was shot dead on a back porch.”
Christopher Drone Bassett, 22, Richard Gregory Williams III, 23, and Kipling Colbert Jr., 22, are accused of murdering Dobson in December 2015 when at least six shooters opened gunfire on a group of high school students on a back porch in Knoxville, TN. In all, prosecutors say there were 34 shots fired and four different guns used.
The jury — composed of six men and six women, ten of whom are white and two of whom are black — heard from the state and from defense lawyers for each of the three suspects, as well as audio from multiple 911 calls on the day of Dobson’s murder and testimony from crime technicians.
Dobson was standing on a porch in a group of six high school students who had just returned from a school basketball game when a group of half a dozen men approached and opened fire. They exchanged no words, prosecutors said. Dobson wounded by the gun shots, leaving him with perforated lungs and other injuries, as he bent over to protect the girls who remained on the porch. According to prosecutors, he bled to death. Dobson's mother, Zenobia Dobson, was in the courtroom throught the first day's proceedings, the Knox News reported.
In the audio of one 911 call, a woman can be heard screaming, ““Oh my god! Someone just shot up the porch! Oh my god!”
The group of minors gathered on the porch, prosecutors said, were made victims as a retaliatory gang-related crime. Earlier that day, the mother and aunt of two of the suspects was found murdered. Using evidence including gang grafiti and their knowledge of the Bloods and Crips gang activity in the area, prosecutors say they can show the suspects in Dobson’s murder were angered earlier in the day by the murder of a family member and drove to the neighborhood where Dobson and other students were shot at.
“These were all kids under the age of 18. They liked to hang out with one another like any kid would. Especially on December 17, the last day of school,” Morton said. “Without one word to anybody, [the suspects] start shooting… There were no other individuals out at all. They were firing at these young kids.” When the gunfire started, Morton said, there were six kids on the back porch, and some of them ran away. “They had the instinct to take off running. Zaevion had a different instinct… Zaevion’s instinct kicked in, and as a protector, he shielded these girls from gunfire. In the process, he took a bullet.”
However, defense attorney T. Scott Jones said while he agrees with prosecutors on some of the details of the murder, other facts are being overlooked in order to connect gang activity and other crimes to this shooting, saying prosecutors are trying to “drum up this criminal theory idea” to make the case for holding each of the three suspects responsible for Dobson’s death.
“The proof we’re going to hear — it’s a tragic death, and there’s a lot we’re going to agree on. But we’re not going to agree on who did the shooting, what the mechanism of the shooting was and how it shook out,” Jones said.
Another defense attorney, Kit Rodgers, said his client was in jail at the time of the murder, and therefore could not have been involved.
Court will continue Wednesday with more testimony.