FORT WAYNE – Lying on a gurney being treated for a stab wound to his back, Jermaine Loyall thought the ambulance drove off the road and was kicking up rocks.
One of his sisters following in the car behind the ambulance thought the same thing.
But it wasn’t rocks banging into the side of the ambulance and car behind it in the early-morning hours of Sept. 9. It was a flurry of 9 mm bullets from a pair of handguns thrust out the windows of a passing Crown Victoria.
And those bullets, probably more than 30, tore through the ambulance windows, sliced through the car doors and into the bodies of the people inside both vehicles.
The description of the sound of the bullets and the injuries they inflicted took up much of the morning Tuesday in Allen Superior Court in the trial of Dontay Martin, 23. Three women in the car, and a medic in the ambulance, all suffered wounds from either bullets or shrapnel in the gunfire.
Martin, of the 4100 block of Hessen Cassel Road, is charged with four counts of attempted murder, two counts of criminal recklessness and one count each of carrying a handgun without a license, criminal gang activity and battery with a deadly weapon causing injury.
Prosecutors believe Martin was sitting in the back seat of the Crown Victoria, armed with a 9 mm Glock 17 with a 30-round extended magazine that belonged to the driver of the car, Alfonso Chappell, who was not charged in the incident.
In the front passenger seat, next to Chappell, sat Traneilous Jackson, of the 4800 block of Hanna Street. Along with another man not charged in the crime, the four were following the ambulance carrying Loyall, who had been stabbed inside Club V at the Piere’s nightclub complex.
According to testimony, Jackson thought Loyall had disrespected him and punched him in the face. In the ensuing melee, Loyall suffered a serious stab wound to the back.
After he was loaded into the ambulance, his sisters and a friend followed a black Impala. Chappell’s car followed as well. Before the ambulance made it too far west down Washington Center Road, the men opened fire on both vehicles.
Jackson, 24, admitted last week to firing his own 9 mm handgun, a Ruger semiautomatic, out his window. He pleaded guilty to charges of attempted murder and other counts, in exchange for a 60-year prison sentence.
The group was arrested after a police chase through downtown. Tossed from the Crown Victoria, the Glock was found along the route of the pursuit. Martin’s blood was found on the slide. He suffered a cut to his hand at some point in the fight.
As part of his plea agreement, Jackson also had to testify against Martin, and it was clearly not something he enjoyed Tuesday. Led in wearing handcuffs and a jail jumpsuit, Jackson was uncomfortable on the witness stand, occasionally shaking his head and looking down. While he testified, Martin rarely looked at him, spending the time doing what he had done all day Tuesday – writing on a legal pad.
Jackson usually answered Deputy Prosecutor Tom Chaille’s questions with one syllable – either yeah or yep. When asked what happened after their car gave chase to the ambulance and Loyall’s sisters, Jackson merely said, shots were fired.
Who fired the shots? Chaille asked him.
I assume so, Jackson said, finally conceding that the second gunman was likely Martin since Chappell was driving and the other man in the car was so drunk he had little idea what was happening.
In his opening statements, Martin’s defense attorney, Jeff Raff, said it was not Martin who fired at the vehicles, but if the jury believes that he did, it was not his intention to kill anyone but rather an alcohol-fueled act of recklessness.
When Jackson testified, Raff pushed him to say that he had not intended to kill anyone in the vehicles.
But Chaille kept going back to Jackson’s intent.
You intended to kill the people in the car? Chaille asked.
True, Jackson said.
Raff asked Jackson whether he was between a rock and a hard place.
Man, this is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, Jackson said, growing frustrated.
As he was led out of the courtroom, Jackson told those assembled in the gallery that he loved them all.
Inside the courtroom were a number of young men, many shaking their heads as Jackson testified. All left when he finished, even though the day’s testimony had not yet concluded.
The trial is expected to continue through Thursday. If convicted of all the charges, Martin could face more than 200 years in prison.