Jury convicts Lawrence man on attempted murder charges; he says he became violent after smoking synthetic marijuana laced with PCP
A Douglas County jury convicted a man on Friday on two counts of attempted murder and multiple other charges for a shooting that occurred in 2020.
Charles Darnell Thomas II, 37, was facing four counts of attempted second-degree murder, three felony counts of aggravated battery, and three felony counts of aggravated endangerment of a child. The charges stem from an incident on July 8, 2020, in the 1900 block of East 19th Street, when Thomas is alleged to have beaten his pregnant girlfriend with a gun before firing the gun at the woman, his friend, and two of the children in the trailer they shared.
The jury returned a verdict after six hours of deliberation and convicted Thomas on two counts of attempted second-degree murder for intentionally shooting at two adults. He was convicted of one count of misdemeanor battery for hitting a child with his cane, one count of aggravated battery for beating his girlfriend with a gun, and three counts of aggravated endangerment of a child. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 6.
Thomas testified Tuesday that he had been smoking K2, a type of synthetic marijuana, the day the incident occurred. He said that he thinks the K2 was laced with PCP and that he wasn’t himself the day in question.
“I was incoherent, for sure,” Thomas said about watching himself talking to police in the body camera video from the night he was arrested.
Thomas said an argument broke out between him and his girlfriend over a 6-year-old child in the trailer spitting in the face of a 2-year-old and that he hit the 6-year-old with his cane to discipline him. Thomas’ girlfriend intervened and they started shouting at each other.
Thomas said a 15-year-old who was in the trailer took the other two kids out of the trailer while the adults were arguing. Thomas’ friend, Andrew Sommer, was also in the trailer and went outside to give the couple space to argue.
During the argument Thomas’ girlfriend started yelling “Andy!, Andy!” and Sommer then appeared in the doorway and told Thomas that he needed to leave the woman alone and he should leave the trailer. Thomas said he then pulled out a gun because Sommer was aggressive and was holding a knife. Thomas said he then yelled at Sommer to get out.
“Everyone in the trailer was just screaming. Andy sided with her. I picked up the gun and shot one time so he would get out of the trailer,” Thomas said. ” I wasn’t trying to kill him.”
After Sommer left the trailer, Thomas said he closed the door behind him and noticed that his girlfriend was bleeding; when he bent down to check on her, he said Sommer came back in the trailer and tackled him to the ground.
“He starts banging me against the floor and stretching my arm,” Thomas said. That’s when the police arrived.
Prior to Thomas’ testimony, the court heard from Sommer, who testified that Thomas had been whispering strange things to him all day and that Thomas “wasn’t himself.” He said that he went outside when the two started fighting and re-entered when he heard the woman yelling for help.
“She was on her knees in the kitchen and Charles was over her with the gun and his elbow up and the gun pointed at her head,” Sommer said.
Sommer said there was blood all over the floor from where Thomas had beaten the woman in the temple with the gun and the 2-year old was standing behind Thomas and the woman. The jury saw photos of the woman from that day with a gash in her temple and large red bruising around her eye while she was getting stitches at the emergency room.
Thomas then pointed the gun at Sommer and told him to get out and fired a round, Sommer said. He could feel the shot flying by his head as he turned to run, he said. Next to him, running, was one of the children who had been in the trailer. Then he heard another gunshot behind him as Thomas fired another bullet past his head, he said.
Sommer said he ran around to the back of the trailer and pulled a window unit air conditioner out of the window and helped the 6-year-old grab a cell phone out of a bedroom to call police. He said he then ran back into the trailer and confronted Thomas, tackling him to the ground and holding him until police arrived.
An officer who was on the scene said he told Sommer that night that he probably saved the woman’s life.
During closing arguments, Senior Assistant District Attorney David Greenwald said that it was a clear case and that Thomas had admitted to hitting the child and the woman and admitted that he fired the gun. He said that Thomas had not mentioned PCP or the knife at any point before to investigators. He said that Thomas didn’t miss on purpose and only failed to kill Sommer because he didn’t have stable footing due to needing to use a cane.
“He didn’t fire warning shots in the air or the floor. He fired shots so close to Sommer that he could feel the powder burns,” Greenwald said.
Thomas’ defense attorney, Branden Smith, told jurors in his closing argument that Thomas was best friends with Sommer and still has a good relationship with the woman and children and that he never intended to kill anyone. He said that both the woman’s and Sommer’s stories have changed a few times throughout the course of the case and that “no one really knows what happened”.
“If you shoot to kill someone, you don’t tell them to get out first,” Smith said.
After the verdict, Thomas was taken to the Douglas County Jail where he is being held on a $15,000 bond. A news release from the Douglas County District Attorney’s Office said that he could face between 55 and 247 months in prison for each of the two counts of attempted second-degree murder, between 11 and 34 months for the count of aggravated battery and between five and 17 months for each of the three counts of aggravated endangerment of a child.