Session Date January 6, 2015
Appeal from the Criminal Court for Shelby County No. 12-01881 Carolyn Wade Blackett, Judge
Robert Brooks (on appeal), and William D. Massey (at trial), Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Rico Vales.
Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Tracy L. Alcock, Assistant Attorney General; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; and Katherine Berendt Ratton, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.
Roger A. Page, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Alan E. Glenn and Camille R. McMullen, JJ., joined.
ROGER A. PAGE, JUDGE
This case arises from a confrontation at a Memorial Day barbeque that ultimately ended in appellant's standing in the street and shooting toward the victims who were in and beside a truck.
The State's first witness was Ammon Brookins,  one of the victims in this case. Ammon attended a Memorial Day barbeque at the home of his father and step-mother on May 30, 2011. He described the gathering as "very festive, " with games, barbeque, and liquor. Fifteen to twenty people were in attendance, including appellant, who was present with his fiancée, Muszette Davis, who was the sister of Ammon's step-mother. Ammon recalled that at some point, appellant mistakenly believed that Delester Quarles, a friend of Harold "Jessie" Brookins,  Ammon's father, was making advances toward Ms. Davis. Appellant attempted to engage Mr. Quarles in a fight, but Mr. Quarles remained in his chair, stayed calm, and would not react to appellant, which seemed to anger appellant further. Attendees at the gathering attempted to calm appellant, but he became even more angry. People began to leave the party because of the escalating situation. Appellant walked to his vehicle, a black Mercedes, and looked for something in the trunk. Ammon believed that the item for which appellant was searching was not in the trunk, which prompted appellant to leave the party. Ms. Davis did not leave with appellant at that time.
About two hours later, Mr. Quarles and Mr. Brookins were sitting in Mr. Quarles' truck across the street from the Brookins residence. Ammon walked over to tell Mr. Quarles that upon information he gleaned from Ms. Davis, Mr. Quarles may want to leave because appellant was on his way back to the residence and they did not want a confrontation. As he was talking to the men in the truck, appellant arrived in a black truck and parked in front of the Brookins residence. When he exited the vehicle, he had a gun in each hand. Ammon tried to warn the occupants of the truck, but they were engaged in arm wrestling and did not pay attention to his alert. Ammon backed away from the truck and put his hands in the air. He attempted to shield himself on the passenger side of the truck; the occupants still did not realize what was happening. By that time, appellant was standing at the driver's side door. Ammon stated that appellant was drunk and that he addressed Mr. Quarles, "If you're not scared, you're scared now." "Within maybe a minute, " appellant started to fire a gun. Ammon felt "threatened" not only for himself, but for his father and the rest of his family in the house across the street.
Ammon recalled that when the gunfire began, he ran to a car that was parked in front of Mr. Quarles' truck to seek cover. He then heard Mr. Quarles start the truck's engine and drive away, but appellant began to fire even more. Appellant then left in his truck. Ammon immediately dialed 9-1-1. He noted seven shell casings in the street where the shooting had occurred. Subsequently, police asked Ammon to give a statement at the police department. While he was there, Ammon viewed a photographic line-up and identified appellant as the shooter.
On cross-examination, Ammon acknowledged that several people were playing cards at the party and that he lost money in a card game against appellant. However, he clarified that they were just playing for "change out of a coin purse." Ammon confirmed that his father had been drinking that night but denied that was why he could not give a statement to police at the time. Rather, Ammon explained that his father was too upset to give a statement. He said that Mr. Quarles had been drinking also but denied that either of the men was intoxicated.
The State's next witness was Delester Quarles, another victim in the case. He recalled that on May 30, 2011, people were "just sitting, . . . drinking a couple of beers, . . . just chilling" when appellant thought Mr. Quarles had "said something out of line . . . to his fiancé[e] or wife[, ] . . . and it just escalated from there." Mr. Quarles apologized for anything he may have said that was offensive, but appellant remained "abrupt and threatening." The previously jovial mood changed as people tried to calm appellant. When appellant left the party, he told Mr. Quarles, "[D]on't be here when I get back." Mr. Quarles decided to take his dinner home with him, but as he entered his truck, Mr. Brookins followed him and sat with him in the truck where they talked and arm-wrestled.
Later, Ammon walked up to the truck, and as he was talking to the men, appellant pulled up in a truck. He recalled that appellant said "something" to him then pulled a gun from behind his back. As Mr. Quarles "hit the gas and . . . sped away" to "[t]ry not to get shot, " he heard gunshots. Ammon called him thereafter to return to the scene, and after speaking with police officers, Mr. Quarles was arrested on a warrant for driving on a suspended license. While Mr. Quarles ...