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Victim's friend testifies at trial

November 15, 1999|By MARLO BARNHART

The gun that killed Desmar Barnard Artis was in Michael Dwayne Williams' hand, a friend of Artis testified Monday during the first day of Williams' murder trial in Washington County Circuit Court.

Levar McDonald also testified that he didn't know Artis had been shot until the next day when he read it in the newspaper.

Williams, 20, is charged with first- and second-degree murder, first- and second-degree assault, reckless endangerment, using a handgun in the commission of a felony and carrying a handgun, according to court records.

McDonald, 21, of Hagerstown, said the events that led to the May 19-20 fatal shooting in Hagerstown began over attention Artis paid to a woman.


That woman, known to McDonald only as "Muffin," had asked Artis and others for a cigarette around 10:45 p.m. on May 19 on the sidewalk near the corner of Franklin and Locust streets, McDonald said.

"She turned her back and Desmar (Artis) tugged on her jacket and then down toward her pants leg ... trying to give her a cigarette," McDonald testified. "She just went ballistic."

McDonald said Artis was intoxicated but insisted his friend wasn't disrespecting the woman as she accused him of doing before she walked away.

That woman returned 10 or 15 minutes later with Williams. She pointed to Artis when Williams asked who "did it," McDonald said.

"Michael Williams told Desmar to stop touching his people," McDonald said. "I thought there was going to be a fight."

McDonald told the jurors that Artis put up his hands in a fighting stance.

"Williams backed up, went for his hip and pulled Desmar (Artis) down by his arm, pointing a gun at his head," McDonald said. "He cocked it back and shot two times."

McDonald said he ran, and as he did he heard four or five more shots. He said he saw Artis run down Locust Street.

Hagerstown City Police were dispatched to East Franklin Street for reports of shots fired but officers found nothing and left the area.

More than seven hours later, officers were called out for a report of a man down in the first block of East Avenue, a little more than two blocks from the site of the call the previous night.

They found Artis on the ground with one gunshot wound to the right shoulder. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Identifying Williams as a possible suspect, police showed his photo and those of five other people to witnesses who were present when the shots were fired.

Williams was pointed out as the man with the gun.

Police then learned that Williams was in Baltimore where he was being held for violation of probation, court records said.

He was detained there and picked up by Hagerstown police a few days later and returned to Washington County for prosecution.

The jurors are expected to hear forensic evidence this morning when the trial resumes before Washington County Circuit Judge Kennedy Boone.

Williams' attorney, Stephen Sacks of Baltimore, is expected to call several witnesses today when the defense opens its case.

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