At trial, forensic experts say teen accused of murder tested positive for gunshot residue

Man whom defense attorney has pointed to as a possible alternative suspect tested negative

photo by: Chris Conde/Journal-World

Derrick Del Reed is pictured during his murder trial on March 8, 2024, in Douglas County District Court.

A teenager on trial in another teen’s shooting death tested positive for gunshot residue after the incident, while a man whom the defense has tried to paint as an alternative suspect tested negative, according to forensic analysts who testified on Friday.

The gunshot residue results were one of several pieces of forensic evidence that Kansas Bureau of Investigation analysts presented on Friday in the trial of 18-year-old Derrick Del Reed, of Lawrence. Reed, whose trial has been going on throughout the week in Douglas County District Court, is charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of Kamarjay Shaw, 14, of Lawrence, on March 18, 2023, in the 1300 block of Maple Lane.

When the trial opened, Reed’s defense attorney, Mark Hartman, suggested that evidence would show that another man might have been responsible for the shooting: 19-year-old Lawrence resident Owen Walker.

A police affidavit has alleged that Walker was with Reed before, during and after the shooting, and Walker is being sought by police on charges of obstruction and interference with law enforcement but has not been charged with any other crimes in the case. Police investigators testified earlier in the trial that Walker was not considered a suspect in the investigation.

Then, on Friday, the KBI lab results showed that Walker tested negative for gunshot residue.

James Taber, a forensic analyst with the KBI, said the gunshot residue tests were done on both of Walker’s hands, as well as the passenger door of the vehicle that Reed and Walker left the scene in after the shooting. All of those tests were negative, he said.

photo by: Chris Conde/Journal-World

KBI forensic scientist James Taber testifies in the murder trial of Derrick Del Reed on March 8, 2024, in Douglas County District Court. Taber testified that there was evidence of gun shot residue found on Reed’s hand.

However, while the lab results did not show gunshot residue on Walker, they did show it on Reed. Reed’s hands and face and the driver’s side door and steering wheel of the vehicle were all tested, and the results came back positive for residue on Reed’s left hand, steering wheel and car door, Taber said.

Hartman questioned the validity of the test results based on when the samples were taken. He referenced a KBI guidebook that was used at the time the tests were done.

The guidebook specified an eight-hour window for samples taken from a live person for gunshot residue testing. It said any samples taken eight hours or more after a crime would not be tested without sufficient cause. Walker’s sample was taken just over eight hours after the shooting, and Reed’s was taken about 21 hours after the shooting.

Taber replied that this was not a strict guideline, and that this time constraint was removed from the KBI’s policy altogether later in 2023. He said that while the likelihood of finding gunshot residue evidence diminishes with time, waiting longer before doing the test wouldn’t increase the risk of a false positive.

Taber also said that decisions on whether to test older samples were based on the workload of the KBI lab, and that the resources to test the samples from Reed and Walker were available at that time.

Hartman also asked whether the gunshot residue could have been transferred to Reed’s hands by police officers when they put handcuffs on him, or whether he could have picked up the residue while he was at the police station. Taber said that was possible; he didn’t elaborate on how likely it was.

Two other KBI analysts testified on Friday. One of them, Mackenzie Garcia, was responsible for testing the firearm that police recovered after the shooting.

photo by: Chris Conde/Journal-World

KBI forensic scientist Mackenzie Garcia displays the gun recovered by police during the trial of Derrick Del Reed on March 8, 2024, in Douglas County District Court.

She said the handgun was tested against the two spent shell casings found at the scene of the shooting, as well as the bullet recovered from Shaw’s body. The tests revealed that all three of those objects were fired from the gun, she said.

The other KBI analyst, Elizabeth Sawaya, said no conclusive DNA evidence was found on the gun or shell casings that could point to who had handled them.

Also on Friday, one of the teenage girls who was at the scene was asked about why she lied to police on the day of the shooting.

Chief Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Tatum said the girl, who has been convicted of obstruction in the case, drove with three other girls to pick up Reed and Walker after the shooting. But Tatum said the girl told police that they had gone to pick up a different person.

The girl testified that she lied because she was nervous.

photo by: Chris Conde/Journal-World

Chief Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Tatum during the murder trial of Derrick Del Reed on March 8, 2024, in Douglas County District Court.

Tatum also asked the girl about dozens of text messages and calls that she exchanged with Reed and Shaw on the day of the shooting. Tatum said police had analyzed the girl’s phone and could see that the texts and calls were made, but that the content of the messages had been deleted. The girl said she couldn’t remember what the calls and messages were about.

Lawrence police Detective Joshua Leitner testified about message and GPS data that he collected from another girl’s phone. That girl also exchanged numerous calls and messages with both Reed and Shaw leading up to the shooting, Leitner said. But those messages, too, had been deleted; Leitner said he didn’t know whether they were deleted intentionally or whether Snapchat deleted them automatically.

The trial is set to resume on Monday, when the defense is scheduled to present its witnesses. The jury is made up of 15 people, including three alternates. Nine of them are women and six are men.

Reed is currently being held at the Douglas County Jail on a $500,000 bond.

photo by: Chris Conde/Journal-World

Detective Joshua Leitner testifies during the murder trial of Derrick Del Reed on March 8, 2024, in Douglas County District Court.


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