Crime & Courts

Federal inmate to give eyewitness details on fatal shooting of protestor, prosecutors say

A closer look at the moment Justin Carr died

Fractions of a second before Justin Carr was fatally shot, a frame from this police video shows a small blip of gold light to the right of where the Charlotte man was standing.
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Fractions of a second before Justin Carr was fatally shot, a frame from this police video shows a small blip of gold light to the right of where the Charlotte man was standing.

A federal inmate will testify in Rayquan Borum’s first-degree murder trial that he was in uptown during the September 2016 riots and watched Borum twice fire his gun at police, a prosecutor said Wednesday.

Kendell Bowden claims to have been with Borum the night of Sept. 21, 2016, when violent demonstrations erupted in parts of the city following the police shooting of Keith Lamont Scott.

Reading from the transcript of Bowden’s interview with Charlotte-Mecklenburg police, Assistant District Attorney Glenn Cole said Bowden has told authorities that Borum boasted throughout the day that he planned to target a cop.

“Think I’m going to kill one tonight,” Borum repeatedly told Bowden, according to Cole.

Borum is charged with killing Justin Carr, 26, who was among the hundreds of demonstrators in downtown Charlotte protesting Scott’s death.

Borum has confessed to shooting Carr, according to video from the police interrogation that followed his arrest. But on the video, Borum told the detectives that the killing was an accident, and that he intended only to fire his gun into the air to disperse the crowd confronting the line of Charlotte-Mecklenburg police outside the Omni Hotel.

On Wednesday, prosecutors said they will use Bowden’s account and other evidence to prove that Borum was intending to kill police, and that Carr was in the way of the bullet that killed him.

That makes Borum, a convicted felon, guilty of first-degree murder, prosecutors have repeatedly told the prospective jurors. If convicted, the 24-year-old Charlotte man faces a mandatory life sentence without parole.

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Mecklenburg Jail

The defense team of Darlene Harris and Mark Simmons has argued in court that the prosecution’s claims, shared with the jury pool, are undermining Borum’s right to a fair trial.

Alluding to Bowden, they told Superior Court Judge Greg Hayes that the prosecution should not be summarizing the potential testimony of a witness “whose credibility has not been determined.”

They asked the judge — unsuccessfully — to lift his earlier restrictions prohibiting the defense from discussing alternative suspects who may be responsible for Carr’s death without first offering evidence.

Short of that, they called on Hayes to clamp down on the prosecution’s airing of details of their case with the people who will decide their client’s fate.

Cole responded by airing more details. With the jury pool out of the room, the prosecutor also renewed his attack on the claim that police, not Borum, shot Carr.

“The key difference in the two cases is that we do have proof that he was shooting at police,” he said, his finger jabbing in the direction of the defense table, and his voice rising to a near shout. “They cannot offer anyone. No one. No one.”

Cole said prosecutors have video of the shooting, photographs that show Borum with a gun in his hands, along with the defendant’s own statements he made to police and during phone recorded at the Mecklenburg Jail.

“We got Bowden,” Cole added, before picking up what he said was the transcript with Bowden’s interview with police and beginning to read.

The potential witness

In late October 2017, Bowden was sentenced to 66 months in prison after pleading guilty to federal charges of bank fraud and two counts of aggravated identity fraud.

Over a 20-month period ending in July 2016, Bowden stole the personal information of at least 10 individuals to get access to their credit accounts at retail stores in Mecklenburg and Iredell counties, The Observer previously reported.

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The murder trial of Rayquan Borum, shown at an earlier hearing, was delayed Thursday after defense attorneys say Borum began falling asleep in the courtroom due to medication he had taken earlier in the day. Borum is accused of fatally shooting Justin Carr during the violent September 2016 protests that hit Charlotte following the police killing of Keith Lamont Scott. John D. Simmons jsimmons@charlotteobserver.com

Bowden was out on bail on those charges when prosecutors say he stole more personal information and accidentally texted it to his parole officer. Bowden then called the officer and asked him to delete the text.

In an earlier reference in which Bowden was not named, Cole said prosecutors had made no deal with a federal inmate scheduled to testify in the case. Cole acknowledged that the inmate hoped to receive some sentencing consideration from the federal government in exchange for his testimony against Borum.

In one of his claims, Bowden said Borum went to the police station on Sept. 21 in hopes of killing an officer there, Cole said.

Bowden said he and Borum later made their way downtown, winding up at Trade and College streets where riot police had established a line in front of the Omni.

Reading from the transcript, Cole said Bowden saw Borum pull the gun and raise it above the bystanders around him while aiming it at police.

Bowen said Borum pulled the trigger but nothing happened, either because the gun misfired or Borum had not released the safety, Cole said.

Bowden said Borum reappeared behind him and tried again, according to Cole.

Prosecutors say Carr, who was standing nearby and facing police, was struck behind the left ear.

A police video already shown to the courtroom shows Borum fleeing the scene.

Michael Gordon has been the Observer’s legal affairs writer since 2013. He has been an editor and reporter at the paper since 1992, occasionally writing about schools, religion, politics and sports. He spent two summers as “Bikin Mike,” filing stories as he pedaled across the Carolinas.
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