Witness unable to recall key details as murder trial of Chattanooga man begins

Mar. 30—A state witness to the 2016 shooting death of a Chattanooga man failed to remember crucial details as the murder trial of Adrian Darnell Nixon began Tuesday in Hamilton County Criminal Court.

Nixon, 33, of Chattanooga, is facing first-degree premeditated murder charges in connection with the shooting death of Jeremy Clark. Among those supporting the defendant as he appeared before Judge Don W. Poole were his parents, Antonio and Terry Petty.

Nixon, who entered a not guilty plea Tuesday, was earlier identified by a witness as being the person who shot and killed Clark during the early hours of July 29, 2016, at a club at 2208 Glass St., according a police affidavit.

Chattanooga police investigators determined Nixon to be the only person who could have shot and killed Clark, according to the affidavit.

«The first witness stated he observed Mr. Clark speaking to the occupant of [a Dodge] Challenger,» the affidavit said. «A short time later, shots were fired.»

The document further stated that the witness was «absolutely positive the occupant of the [vehicle] shot Mr. Clark, killing him.»

Nixon told investigators that while he was the only one in the car, an «unknown party approached his vehicle from the passenger side, reached through the vehicle and shot Mr. Clark multiple times,» the affidavit said.

According to the affidavit, investigators did not find any shell casings inside the Challenger to corroborate Nixon’s story. Shell casings were found outside the vehicle, which was parked at the time of the incident.

Executive Assistant District Attorney Cameron Williams and Prosecutor AnCharlene Davis are arguing the case for the state. Bill Speek and Jonathan Turner represent Nixon.

Dennis Clark, the victim’s brother and a city council candidate in 2016 and 2020, was present. Clark was accompanied by his mother and grandfather.

Clark, who said he and his family were excited to finally be in court after waiting six years for justice for his brother, spoke to the media.

«We hope that the defendant will be found guilty. And we hope that all the evidence will be presented fairly,» Clark said. «We’re pretty confident that the state has solid evidence to find Mr. Nixon guilty. In the event that the jury does not come back with justice for Jeremy, I feel confident that they will continue their investigation to make sure that our murderer is brought to justice, but I’m pretty confident that the person that’s responsible for my brother’s death is sitting in the courtroom.»

According to Clark, all three witnesses to the event agreed to testify.

During her opening statement, Davis, the prosecutor, said that as Nixon fled the scene, Clark was left on the ground with mortal wounds.

«He’d been shot five times, four went to the chest, one to the head,» Davis said. «No matter how much they tried to help him, Jeremy Clark did not make it.»

Speek, the defense attorney, said to jurors the evidence would come only from the witness stand.

«I ask you respectfully to pay attention to what is being said,» Speek said. «We’re looking forward to your common sense. Please remain open-minded until the entire case is heard.»

During Tuesday’s testimony, a photo of the victim was presented at court, evoking strong emotions from his mother, who left the room sobbing.

Janet Benford, the second witness for the state, said people were standing outside, socializing, at the time of the shooting.

«He [Jeremy Clark] stood around, talked to a couple of people, then he walked to another group of people,» Bedford said.

She testified that she didn’t see a vehicle, but she saw lights.

«Technically, I didn’t see the white car, I saw the taillights of a car, could have been beige, white,» Bedford said.

Bedford said that after hearing gunshots, she saw the taillights leaving the parking lot, then she saw Clark on the ground.

Reginald Lacklin was called to testify by the state. He and Bedford were together at the lounge on the night of the incident.

«When I heard gunshots, I jumped straight at my vehicle,» Lacklin said. «I saw a bunch of people just running and scattering.»

«I didn’t notice it was him at first,» Lacklin said of the victim. «I just seen someone stumbling and falling to the ground.»

Lacklin said that once he saw Clark on the ground, he tried to administer aid by keeping him awake and speaking to him.

Lacklin, testified that he wasn’t certain if his previous statement to the police was accurate because of all that was happening that night. He further testified that he didn’t see Nixon the night of the incident. Lacklin said he «didn’t think so» when asked by attorneys from both sides if seeing his testimony from the preliminary hearing would help refresh his memory.

A third witness for the state testified that he heard a bunch of commotion when he arrived at the Lounge. The judge ordered the media not to use the witness’s name. According to police, Clark was a gang member and Nixon has no known gang affiliations.

«I shook his hand, he walked off, and he got shot,» the witness said. «He fell, I hit the ground, I looked at him and he was looking at me.»

That same witness can be heard in an audio of a 911 call that was played by the prosecution.

«My homeboy was shot in the head,» the witness is heard saying. «I don’t know if he’s breathing, hurry up and get here.»

During direct examination, the witness became hostile and uncooperative, causing Dennis Clark to storm out of the courtroom.

Contact La Shawn Pagán at lpagan@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6476. Follow her on Twitter @LaShawnPagan.

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