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The Journal Gazette

  • Washington

Tuesday, March 15, 2016 8:31 pm

Passenger takes stand, tells of panic, gunshots

Rebecca S. Green | The Journal Gazette

The fourth day of Jeremy Washington’s murder trial ended with testimony from the passenger in his car as he fled the scene of a shooting and ended up in a fatal crash a mile up the road.

Clayton Delong told the jury he didn’t know there had been any kind of dust-up in the Corner Pocket Pub before he had to leave – because Washington was his ride – just before midnight March 28, 2014.

And as they sat in Washington’s Infiniti sedan, Delong was more interested in texting others to figure out where they were going to hang out next and didn’t pay much attention to the white SUV approaching the driver’s-side door.

Within seconds, though, words were exchanged and Washington was reaching into the console, pulling out a .45-caliber semi-automatic handgun and firing it out the window.

But before he dived for the gun, Washington let out a panicked "oh, shit" as he looked up into the SUV, about 30 inches away, Delong said.

Delong testified that he never saw a weapon in the Tahoe, driven by Brian Ybarra, but he heard three to four gunshots ring out just before Washington floored the gas pedal and left the parking lot.

Ybarra and his cousin Chris Martens had gotten into some kind of verbal quarrel with Washington inside the bar. They were all kicked out, along with Chad Jackson, Ybarra’s friend. In the parking lot, Ybarra pulled up alongside Washington’s car and the two continued whatever they’d started inside. 

Washington fired a gun into the SUV, hitting Jackson in the neck. He then tore down St. Joe Road at speeds well over the speed limit, running a red light at the Stellhorn Road intersection. Right behind him was Ybarra, rushing Jackson to Parkview Hospital’s Randalia campus.

At the St. Joe and Stellhorn intersection, Washington’s car plowed into a Toyota driven by 17-year old Haley Nellum, striking it square in the driver’s-side door.

Nellum, a Bishop Dwenger sophomore basketball player, was pronounced dead at the scene. She had been driving home from a friend’s house. 

Washington told police he believed Ybarra pointed a weapon at him from inside the SUV, though no gun was ever found, and the only evidence of any weapon – such as shell casings and bullet holes – was linked to Washington’s gun, according to testimony Thursday.

Delong testified that he never saw a weapon other than Washington’s. He said he never heard about the allegation of one until a few weeks later when he saw Washington for the first time after the crash.

Also testifying Thursday was IPFW police Officer Rick Wiegmann, who was on duty and at the Speedway gas station next to the crash site. He heard the noise and ran out of the convenience store to see the white Infiniti with a crumpled front end and Nellum’s Toyota destroyed.

He parked his police car to block the southbound traffic and said two off-duty medics ran to help Nellum, whose lifeless body was pinned to the interior of the roof of the car. 

Washington was standing outside his vehicle, on his phone, while Delong lay injured inside, Wiegmann said.

Delong testified that he suffered torn muscles in the crash, as well as a concussion, glass cuts and severe bruises. He heard someone at the scene telling him to stay still. His next memory was waking up at the hospital. 

Washington faces nearly a dozen charges in connection with the shooting and the crash: three counts of attempted murder and criminal recklessness with a deadly weapon and one count of aggravated battery in connectin with the shooting; and charges of murder, reckless homicide, operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated causing death and operating a motor vehicle causing serious bodily injury in connection with the crash.

And the case involves two crime scenes separated by about a mile of roadway. The trial is expected to continue through at least the middle of next week.

rgreen@jg.net