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State v. Truss

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Tenth District

September 5, 2019

State of Ohio, Plaintiff-Appellee,
Deanthoni S. Truss, Defendant-Appellant.

          APPEAL from the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas (C.P.C. No. 16CR-6513)

         On brief:

          Ron O'Brien, Prosecuting Attorney, and Seth L. Gilbert, for appellee.

          Yeura Venters, Public Defender, and Robert D. Essex, for appellant.


          Seth L. Gilbert.

          Robert D. Essex.


          KLATT, P.J.

         {¶ 1} Defendant-appellant, Deanthoni S. Truss, has filed a delayed appeal from the judgment of the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas sentencing him to 40 years to life imprisonment following the jury's guilty verdict on charges of aggravated murder, murder, attempted murder, felonious assault, and attendant firearm specifications. For the following reasons, we affirm that judgment.

         {¶ 2} Our recitation of the facts in this case derives in large part from a surveillance video obtained by the Columbus Police Department from the Quick Stop convenience store located at 2276 East Fifth Avenue. Just before noon on June 8, 2016, Tommie Brown drove into the parking lot of the Quick Stop, exited his vehicle, and shook hands with Kris Pace, who was standing outside the store. Tommie went into the store, purchased an item, exited the store, and resumed his conversation with Kris.

         {¶ 3} A car driven by William Brown (no relation to Tommie) pulled into the parking spot next to Tommie's vehicle. Moments later, a car driven by Treyon Lee parked next to William; appellant was seated in the front passenger seat of Lee's car. Lee did not pull his vehicle all the way into the parking space. As William exited his car, he spoke to appellant through the open car window. William then entered the store and walked to the counter. Almost immediately, William exited the store and engaged in another conversation with appellant, who was still seated in Lee's car. Following this conversation, William re-entered the store; Kris followed him inside. As William stood at the counter, Kris punched him in the face, knocking him to the floor. Kris continued to strike William as he lay on the floor. At trial, Kris testified that he attacked William because William had pulled a gun on him a few days earlier.

         {¶ 4} In the meantime, Tommie walked toward the entrance of the store. At the same time, appellant exited Lee's car, shook hands with Tommie, and scanned the area. He held the door open for Tommie, scanned the area again, pulled a gun from his jacket pocket and followed Tommie into the store. Tommie stood inside, watching the fight between William and Kris. Immediately after entering the store, appellant turned toward Tommie and fired two shots at him from close range. One bullet struck Tommie in the abdomen; the other struck him in the chest. Appellant then approached Kris and William and fired five shots at them. He immediately ran out the front door and dove headfirst into Lee's car through the open passenger window. Lee was already backing out of the parking space as appellant exited the store. Appellant and Lee fled the scene.

         {¶ 5} In the aftermath of the shootings, the store cashier called 911 and attempted to assist Kris, who had been shot several times. William, who had been shot in the shoulder, ran out of the store and drove away. Tommie collapsed and died inside the front entrance. Kris was rendered a quadriplegic as a result of the shooting.

         {¶ 6} During their investigation, the police recovered, among other evidence, a semiautomatic handgun from the floor near Tommie's head. The police also obtained the surveillance video from the store. After interviewing witnesses and reviewing the surveillance video, the police developed appellant as a suspect in the shootings. A warrant for his arrest was issued on June 22, 2016.

         {¶ 7} On November 17, 2016, the Southern Ohio Fugitive Apprehension Team ("SOFAST"), a task force comprised of several federal and state law enforcement officers, tracked appellant and two women to a hotel room in northern Franklin County. Several SOFAST officers, all dressed in tactical gear, assembled outside the hotel room to execute the arrest warrant. Pursuant to SOFAST protocol, one of the officers knocked loudly on the door of the hotel room several times, each time announcing himself as a police officer with a warrant for appellant's arrest. When appellant did not respond, the officer warned appellant that the SOFAST team would force the door open if appellant did not voluntarily open the door. Receiving no response, the officers breached the door and removed the two women from the room. Appellant fired multiple shots at the officers, and they returned fire.

         {¶ 8} Following the shootout, appellant was taken into custody and interviewed by a Columbus police detective. During that interview, the detective described in detail the events depicted on the surveillance video. Appellant admitted that he knew Tommie, Kris, and William prior to the incident on June 8, 2016. However, he did not know that William was going to be at the Quick Stop that day or what precipitated the fight between William and Kris. He further averred that he had not seen Tommie for some time and thought they were "cool" with each other. (Nov. 17, 2016 interview, State's Ex. R.) He admitted that he shot Tommie, William, and Kris, but explained that he thought there was a robbery in progress because when he opened the door for Tommie, Tommie told him he would kill him if he "jump[ed] in." Id. Appellant also stated that Tommie was holding a firearm at his side when he entered the store. ...

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