A surprise admission during Friday’s testimony caught the courtroom off guard in the trial of Dennis Bendy, and prevented the state from resting its case as planned.
Bendy is charged in the gang-related shooting death on July 30, 2013, of 20-year-old Briana Young in P.T. Cole Park in Tyler.
The trial took a turn after Stephen Whitemon was sworn in to testify.
“What did you tell me concerning another firearm?” District Attorney Matt Bingham asked.
“There was, well I had mentioned it and let you know that I gave him the AK,” Whitemon said, meaning an AK-47.
His testimony lines up with co-defendant Rakheem Goldstein, who said he and Bendy picked up an AK-47 from a man named Stick.
Whitemon said his street name’s actually Sticky, but other than that, Goldstein got it right.
The defense claims they’re all lies.
“Isn’t it true that you had never mentioned Dennis Bendy’s name to law enforcement or anybody else before today involving this case and your involvement, right?” defense attorney Don Davidson asked.
“Yes sir,” Whitemon responded.
Whitemon testified with the promise of immunity, but that was only for a different gun he helped hide after the shooting.
He had no guarantee of safety when he first brought up the AK-47.
Before Whitemon took the stand, several Tyler police investigators testified about physical evidence against Bendy.
Detective Kenneth Gardner conducted a search warrant for Bendy’s silver Lincoln.
He told the jury he found white shirts in the back seat and trunk, like the ones from a gas station security video showing Bendy and co-defendant Goldstein switching cars before the shooting.
The defense claims it means nothing.
“You can’t even tell the folks on the jury that Dennis Bendy had ever even had on any of these T-shirts can you?” defense attorney Rex Thompson asked.
“No, I can’t,” Gardner said.
“They’re T-shirts that were found in his vehicle right?” Thompson asked.
“That’s correct,” Gardner said.
“You don’t even know if they’re Dennis Bendy’s T-shirts at all do you?” Thompson asked.
“I don’t,” Gardner said.
Lead Detective Damon Swan explained how eyewitnesses helped from the beginning.
“The day after the shooting, Opal Roberson told us exactly what she saw,” he said. She was the one who pointed police in the right direction.
“She probably gave me initially the best description and eyewitness of what happened,” Swan said.
Bendy is one of three people charged with murder in the aftermath of that shooting.
All three face up to life in prison if convicted.