Lawrence teen accused of murder in fatal shooting claims self-defense in new court filing, alleges drug deal became violent

photo by: Dylan Lysen/Lawrence Journal-World

Andrel D. Spates, Jr., appears in Douglas County District Court on Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2021.

One of the two men accused of murder after a fatal shooting in September is claiming he acted in self-defense after a marijuana deal became violent, according to a new court filing.

Andrel D. Spates Jr., 19, recently filed a motion requesting immunity from the criminal prosecution of the first-degree murder charge he is facing alongside Javier I. Romero, 18, in the Sept. 8 shooting in central Lawrence.

Spates and Romero are accused of killing Christian Willis, 21, of Wichita, during a shooting that took place around 7:15 p.m. in the 1500 block of Kentucky Street. Willis was pronounced dead at the scene, which is near the Spates’ residential address, according to the Douglas County Jail booking log.

But in the court filing, Spates and his attorney Adam Hall claimed that the fatal shooting occurred after Willis attempted to rob Romero at gunpoint during a drug transaction. The new filing alleges that Willis fired several times at Romero and that Spates then fired at Willis from a balcony in order to stop him.

“The only thing that stopped Willis from aggressively and unlawfully killing Romero were the wounding shots fired from Spates’ firearm, which slowed Willis long enough for Romero to escape,” Hall wrote in the filing.

Along with the murder charge, Spates is facing charges of distribution of a controlled substance and criminal possession of a firearm by a felon. The murder charge is an off-grid felony, which means that if Spates is convicted, he could be sentenced to life in prison.

Romero is also facing charges of first-degree murder and possession of marijuana with intent to distribute.

photo by: Contributed

Javier Romero, left, and Andrel Spates Jr., right.

Both Spates and Romero were originally scheduled for a preliminary hearing on Wednesday, where Judge Stacey Donovan would have heard evidence in the case and ruled on whether they should stand trial on the charges. However, the Douglas County District Attorney’s Office requested to delay the hearing in light of Spates’ motion. As such, prosecutors made no arguments on Wednesday regarding the validity of the self-defense motion, including whether the alleged drug deal — a potential crime in itself — would nullify a self-defense claim under Kansas law.

The preliminary hearing is now scheduled for Jan. 25.

The new filing was provided to the Journal-World on Wednesday. Allegations in the filing have not yet been proved in court. A hearing for Spates’ motion is scheduled for Jan. 10.

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According to the filing, Willis allegedly arranged to purchase marijuana from either Spates or Romero at the residence, but planned to rob them instead.

The filing alleges that Willis had previously robbed someone in Lawrence in the same way and had bragged about it to a friend in text messages. The filing also claims that prior to the incident with Romero and Spates, Willis sent a text message saying that he was setting up another robbery, planning to steal half a pound of marijuana.

Willis’ cousin, Drevious McCallister, reportedly agreed to travel with him to the planned robbery, but decided on the way there that it might go badly and wanted to get out of the vehicle before they arrived.

The filing says that when Willis arrived, he approached the residence with a firearm in a holster clipped to his pants. He then began speaking to Romero and Spates, who were standing on a third-floor balcony of the apartment complex.

Romero eventually left the residence and approached Willis with a grocery bag with drugs. But the filing alleges that when he approached, Willis pulled out his gun and said to Romero, “if you move, I will kill you.” Then, the filing says, Romero handed over the drugs and asked Willis to calm down, which was met with hostility from Willis.

The filing alleges that Romero and Willis then struggled over the gun, but that Willis fired one or two shots before it jammed. They then reportedly struggled over a gun that Romero had on him, which Willis allegedly took and fired into the air as Romero tried to take it back. After he was able to take control of the firearm, Willis allegedly stood over Romero and fired several shots.

photo by: Kim Callahan/Journal-World

Lawrence police work the scene Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2021, in the 1500 block of Kentucky Street after a fatal shooting occurred. The victim was later identified as a 21-year-old Wichita man named Christian Willis.

During the struggle, the motion states that Spates went back into his apartment to get his own firearm “to defend himself, his home, and Romero” from Willis. When he returned, he saw Willis standing over Romero and firing the gun.

The motion says Spates then fired several times at Willis, wounding him and allowing Romero to get away. Willis fell onto his back, still holding Romero’s gun. Hall said in the filing that the shots did not strike Willis in vital areas — his head or torso — but instead hit him in the lower body.

The motion also claims McCallister then approached the scene and kicked Willis to determine that he was not moving. He then allegedly took the two guns and a wad of cash off of Willis and drove away in the vehicle they had arrived in.

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In the motion, Hall argued that Spates was entitled to immunity from the charges under state law because he was acting in self-defense when he fired the shots at Willis. He specifically cited a state law that says that an individual may use force against someone if they reasonably believe they or a third person are in danger.

Additionally, Hall said that despite the fact that Willis died of his injuries, Spates’ shots did not hit Willis in vital areas — his head and torso — but instead in his lower body.

Hall also said there was no evidence that Romero or Spates acted aggressively toward Willis and that Willis met them with the unlawful intention to commit a robbery while Romero “pleaded for peace.”

For those reasons, Hall asked the court to grant Spates immunity and dismiss the charge of first-degree murder.

Both Romero and Spates have been in Douglas County Jail custody since they were arrested on the charges in the fall. They are both currently held on $1 million cash or surety bond.

The Journal-World has requested a copy of the police affidavit supporting the arrests of Romero and Spates but has not yet received it from the court.


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