The first police officer on the scene of a fatal shooting inside a North Lawrence motel recalled a haze of smoke and the smell of burnt gunpowder in the hall.
Inside room 308, she found three men shot and bleeding and another man frantic and pacing, still on the phone with 911.
“There were multiple shell casings, bullet holes in the wall,” the officer, Meagan Shipley of the Lawrence Police Department, testified. “There was blood almost everywhere, all over the hotel room.”
Three men who allegedly carried out those shootings — which killed 23-year-old Cameron Hooks of Lenexa — must stand trial on murder and other charges in the case, a Douglas County District Court judge ruled following a preliminary hearing on Tuesday.
From testimony by the police officer and other witnesses, Judge Sally Pokorny found that probable cause existed to bind over for trial Tyrone J. Carvin, 19, of Kansas City, Kan.; Ramone Singleton, 23, of Kansas City, Kan.; and Shawn K. Smith, 18, of Kansas City, Mo.
Each defendant, through his attorney, pleaded not guilty. Pokorny scheduled a week and a half-long jury trial for all three of them to begin March 5. All three defendants are currently jailed on $1 million bond.
The judge said her intention was to try the men together, though defense attorneys said they anticipate filing motions to sever the cases.
According to the judge, each defendant is now charged with:
• One count of first-degree felony murder for allegedly killing Hooks during the commission of an armed robbery. The judge added an alternative charge of first-degree intentional murder.
• One count of aggravated battery for allegedly shooting Dominck Frye.
• One count of aggravated assault for allegedly threatening Tanner Marlow with a gun.
• One count of attempted aggravated robbery for allegedly trying to rob Mathdaniel Squirrel at gunpoint, a new charge added by the judge.
The judge dismissed a count of aggravated battery for allegedly shooting Laroyce Thomas. Thomas didn’t testify.
Gunfire broke out about 11:30 p.m. Sept. 2 inside Motel 6, 1130 N. Third St.
In addition to the three victims named in the charges, one of the defendants, Carvin, was shot during the incident — but it’s not clear by whom.
Emergency responders hoped to fly Hooks to a hospital, but he died at the airport and the flight was called off, coroner Erik Mitchell said during his testimony on Tuesday.
Hooks was shot five times, Mitchell said.
The most lethal bullet struck Hooks in the back, went through multiple organs and exited the front of his torso, Mitchell said. Hooks also had gunshots to his arm, abdomen and thigh.
Mitchell said it wasn’t possible to determine whether the shots came from the same gun or more than one.
According to testimony by Marlow, Squirrel and Frye:
The three friends had come from Topeka to Lawrence, where they had a motel room for the night.
They made a run to Walmart, where Thomas and Hooks joined them. Thomas was a friend of Frye’s. No one but Thomas knew Hooks.
The five went back to the motel room, where they were drinking, smoking marijuana, watching college football and “chilling.” The plan was to go out later, to a North Lawrence strip club.
At some point Carvin — a friend of Squirrel’s — joined them, bringing Singleton, Smith and one other man from Kansas City. (The fourth man was not identified in court. The DA’s office said Tuesday, in response to questions from the Journal-World, that the case is still being investigated and the office was unable to comment on any additional suspect or suspects.)
For about an hour, all nine men were in the hotel room together, eating pizza, sharing bottles of liquor and smoking marijuana.
The group never made it to the club.
About the time they were going to get ready to go, the four Kansas City men moved toward the door and started shooting.
The three friends who testified had different stories about what happened at that point.
Marlow said he dived behind a bed. He said he heard someone yell “(expletive) you!” and heard the shooting but didn’t see it.
“I was just sitting on the side of the bed, and the next thing I know it was just back and forth gunfire,” he said. “I didn’t know if they were going to shoot me or not.”
Marlow said as far as he knew, there was no robbery and nothing was taken. He said there was no dealing going on in the room and that the only gun he’d seen before the shooting started belonged to his friend, Frye.
Marlow said he sensed some “tension” earlier but had no indication something violent was going to happen.
Squirrel said he got up and headed for the bathroom, near the door to the hallway, to finish getting ready to go out.
“That’s when they, like, hopped up and pretty much tried to rob us,” Squirrel said. “They pulled guns out and said, ‘Give me everything,’ or ‘Run everything.’”
Squirrel said one man — the fourth man who wasn’t in the courtroom — pointed a gun at him, he heard shots, ducked down, ran into the hallway, down the stairs and out of the building.
Squirrel said he knew Frye had a gun but didn’t see any others until the one that was pointed at him.
The last witness to testify Tuesday, Frye, said the evening was supposed to be “a bros’ night.” Even after the Kansas City foursome joined, “we were all socializing,” he said.
He had just leaned over to pass the liquor bottle when the four stood up and “just opened fire,” Frye said. He said he heard yelling, screaming and someone saying “Go, go, go.”
“It happened so quick all I could do was roll over and just pray,” Frye said. Frye said he felt bullets hit the back of his body, and that he was shot four times in all.
He said he jumped up, locked the door so no one could run back in, then threw his gun out the motel room window because he was on probation at the time and “panicked.” He said when he saw paramedics coming in, he “blacked out.”
Frye said earlier he’d heard Thomas talking about having two guns and had seen one of them on his hip. He said he didn’t take his gun out during the evening and that he didn’t know why the shooting happened.
Frye said he initially suspected Squirrel set them up, because it was through him that the Kansas City men got invited.
But Tuesday Frye said after a lot of thinking and putting “puzzle pieces” together, he no longer suspected that.
Frye said that while there was no animosity or arguing, when the Kansas City men joined them in the motel room he got “sketchy vibes.”
“I just didn’t feel right. Four extra people coming up, a hotel room full of nine people — it’s a little crowded,” Frye said.
Frye said he also noted what the men were wearing.
“I was wondering why three of them was dressed all black, and the other one had sandals on,” he said. “It ain’t like nothing you’d wear to go out.”