Crime & Courts

Man on trial for shooting death at 2016 protests told police he fired to disperse crowd

Rayquan Borum, who’s accused of killing a man in September 2016 as protests swept through uptown Charlotte, told police he fired his gun to disperse the crowd during the chaos.

Borum’s statement was shown on the first day of his first-degree murder trial, during a sometimes dramatic three-hour video of his police interrogation after the shooting death of Justin Carr.

Carr, 21, was shot in the head while attending a protest of a Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer’s killing of Keith Lamont Scott the day before.

Superior Court Judge Gregory Hayes of Hickory ordered the video played, before jury selection begins, to decide whether prosecutors may admit it as evidence. Borum’s defense attorneys have filed a motion to suppress the footage.

At issue: Did detectives violate Borum’s constitutional rights by continuing to ask him questions after he told them he wanted an attorney?

Hayes had not ruled on the motion by the time court closed for the day Monday.

The video shows police suggesting to Borum, who’s now 24, that the shooting was an accident. At first, he admits to throwing a small rock but denies other allegations.

In the video, Borum says he didn’t carry a gun that night and doesn’t know who fired the shot. Detectives tell Borum they have video of the shooting. He asks to see it. They tell him they can’t show it because it’s part of a case file, according to the footage.

After about 90 minutes of interrogation of Borum, the video shows homicide detective Richard Jones moving his chair next to the defendant and putting his hand on Borum’s shoulder.

“It was an accident, right?” Jones says.

Jones places his finger near Borum’s chest. “That heart right there is beating in your chest. You’d didn’t mean to shoot him, did you?”

Borum rubs his eyes and pulls his hair back from his face, the video shows. Then he begins to cry.

The quality of the audio made it difficult to hear the complete back-and-forth between Borum and the detectives. But later in the video, Borum tells Jones and fellow investigator Franchot Pack that he carried a handgun to the uptown demonstrations for protection.

Following more questions, the detectives asked Borum to show how he fired the gun to disperse the crowd. Borum made a quick motion with his left hand with his finger pointed skyward — and not at people, the video shows.

On the video, Borum says he didn’t know anyone had been shot until he watched the news reports at his mother’s home that night.

‘They got video of me’

Carr was fatally shot around 8:20 a.m. on Sept. 21, 2106, in front of the Omni Hotel. The activist group, Charlotte Uprising, says police killed Carr and then falsely charged Borum, a convicted felon who spent three months in jail in 2012 for breaking and entering, court records show.

On the afternoon of his arrest in the Carr shooting, Borum told a friend in a series of calls from the Mecklenburg Jail that he had fired the shot, and that it hit Carr by accident, prosecutors say.

Audio recordings of those calls were played in court. Borum’s lawyers said they have not filed a motion to suppress the recordings, but that their admissibility might be covered by Hayes’ decision on whether to allow the video.

Detectives believe all the calls went to the same person, Marcus “Black” Williams, a companion of Borum’s on the night of the shooting, Pack testified Monday.

“They got video of me ... They got you and me. They got us walking all through downtown,” Borum says in a recording of one of the calls.

Later in one of the recordings played Monday, Borum tells his listener that he had confessed: “I already I told them I did it.” He adds that detectives had a photo of him holding the gun, with the weapon circled.

Whether the jury ever hears those calls or sees the interrogation videos still hangs in the balance.

Midway through Borum’s interrogation, he asks for an attorney. The detectives, Pack and Jones, tell Borum that once he has an lawyer he will no longer have the chance to talk with them.

Borum later tells them, “Come back in five minutes and I’ll let you know.”

When the detectives return, Pack asks Borum, “Do you want to take this leap together?”

“I’m trying but I don’t know. I don’t see no evidence,” Borum says on the video.

Do you want to resume the interview? the detectives ask.

“Yeah, we can talk,” Borum says.

Pack, the lead detective in the Carr shooting, testified that he interpreted Borum’s comment to mean the defendant was willing to resume the interview without having a lawyer present, which freed the investigators to resume their questioning.

Defense attorney Darlene Harris attacked Pack’s reasoning when it was her turn to question him. She said after Borum said he wanted a lawyer present, the detectives asked him a half dozen times whether he wanted to keep talking with them.

“What was your intent? Why were you even speaking to him?” Harris said. “Did he ever state that ‘I don’t need an attorney?’”

Pack said he did not.

“Did you re-advise him of his right to have an attorney?” Harris asked.

No, Pack replied.

Heightened security

The trial began with tight security.

Spectators had to pass through two lines of screenings, one at the courthouse entrance and another outside the fifth-floor courtroom. Outside the Mecklenburg County Courthouse, a deputy on a Segway patrolled the sidewalks along Third Street. Phones are banned in court, along with any signs, clothing or insignia indicating support for a particular side.

Borum entered a few minutes before 10 a.m.

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Jane Wester is a Charlotte native and has been covering criminal justice and public safety for The Charlotte Observer since May 2017.