An argument over money escalated quickly at a Mableton computer repair shop, ending with one man dead and the shooter calling the police and admitting to the crime.
That’s what a jury heard in Cobb County Superior Court on Wednesday as the prosecution made its case in the murder trial of Jerry Wayne Lovings, 57, who is accused of gunning down 22-year-old Jonathan Brooks on May 18, 2011.
Lovings, appearing in court in a blue blazer with a gray tie, spent most of the first day of testimony looking down at his notes as witnesses described how an apparent argument over taxes ended in a bloody scene at a strip mall on Veterans Memorial Highway.
“This isn’t about taxes,” said Assistant District Attorney Jesse Evans in his opening argument. “This isn’t about money. This is about malice.”
Defense attorney Jill Stahlman, representing Lovings, portrayed her client as a homeless man with a troubled past frustrated by a series of scams perpetrated by Brooks.
“There is one thing the defense and the prosecution agree on,” Stahlman said in her opening statement. “This was a horrible, horrible tragedy.”
She added, “We’re not here to make any excuses. We’re here to help you understand what happened.”
Lovings is accused of firing eight rounds from a .22-caliber revolver at Brooks, striking him three times — once in the neck and then twice in the back — as the victim tried unsuccessfully to escape through a neighboring store.
Then as Brooks lay dying in the parking lot, Lovings called 911.
On the call, Lovings sounded calm when speaking to the dispatcher.
“I shot a man,” Lovings said. “I shot him … I think he’s dead. I’m standing right here. I think he might be dying.”
An escalating argument
Witnesses for the prosecution Wednesday portrayed the events leading up to the shooting as starting with an argument over a $100 check that Lovings wanted cashed.
According to testimony, Lovings had been acquainted with an owner of the repair business, A Computer Solutions, for about 25 years and had asked him to cash the check because he was overdrawn on his bank account. The owner, Alandis Robinson, had agreed to it a few days earlier.
“I tried to help him get back on his feet,” Robinson said of Lovings, who was homeless at the time.
But when Lovings called him on the day of the shooting, Robinson testified, he had forgotten to cash the check. Later that day, Lovings showed up at the store looking to collect the money, but Robinson refused. An argument ensued and, according to Robinson, Lovings ripped up the check and left the store.
Meanwhile, Brooks, who worked at the computer repair business doing various jobs for the owners, was not involved in the initial argument.
Lovings returned 45 minutes later, carrying a backpack. This time, he apologized for the earlier argument.
“It seemed like everything had calmed down,” Robinson said.
But then Lovings started talking to Brooks, who was in the front of the store vacuuming the carpet.
The two were allegedly at odds over a referral for tax preparation that Lovings claimed had never materialized.
At that point, Lovings pulled a revolver from his black and blue backpack and pointed it at Brooks.
“He pointed it at J.B., and Jerry said, ‘You got everything to do with it.’”
Lovings shot twice, striking him in the neck.
An ill-fated ending
Brooks then ran out the front of the store trying to get away from Lovings and made his way next door to a hair-braiding business. But in his search for a back exit, he found himself trapped in a bathroom.
Lovings followed him down the hallway and shot through the doorway, striking Brooks again.
Lovings returned to the computer store, where he threw the gun into a storage barrel and called 911.
Brooks, meanwhile, made his way into the front parking lot and collapsed. He was taken to WellStar Cobb Hospital, where he died from his injuries.
The shootings brought panic to the surrounding business owners as they tried to understand the events unfolding before them.
Fatou Camara, owner of Kadi Hair Braiding next door to the computer repair shop, was eating lunch with her 9-year-old daughter when Brooks and Lovings ran in through the front door.
“Jonathan came in the shop running,” Camara said. “He was holding his neck. Three seconds later, I see a guy follow him. I took my daughter out to the (neighboring) tax store.”
The owner of the Westside Tax Service, Joann Dieke, testified she called 911 and watched as Lovings stood in the parking lot and called the police himself.
“A person has been shot,” she told the dispatcher. “The guy who shot him is still here.”
Lovings was indicted in August 2011 on charges of malice murder, two counts of felony murder, aggravated assault and aggravated battery. If convicted, he faces life without parole.
The trial continues today with additional prosecution witnesses and the opening of the defense’s case.