Morgan Junction murder trial: 5 more witnesses on the stand

February 25, 2014 at 2:04 am | In Crime, West Seattle news | 15 Comments

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

More challenges with witness-wrangling logistics led to a short Monday in the trial of Lovett “Cid” Chambers, the Gatewood man charged with second-degree murder in the deadly Morgan Junction shooting two years ago.

The trial technically is in its second month, having started weeks of motion hearings in early January, followed by jury selection, but presentations did not begin until last Wednesday, after the jury was seated, so Monday was the second day of witness testimony.

Today’s five witnesses included three Seattle Police officers with various roles in the police operation after Chambers, now 69, shot 35-year-old Travis Hood (photo at right). The shooting itself is not in dispute; jurors are being asked to decide if it was a crime, or, as the defense contends, self-defense.

But the day began with another former member of the staff at Feedback Lounge, where Chambers and Hood (accompanied that night by friend Jamie Vause, expected to testify later this week) had both been drinking – though nowhere near each other – before the shooting up the block.

Rebecca Davis was the first to testify about serving Hood and Vause that night. They had a few beers, some food, played Pac-Man, and left, she said. She said they stood out in her memory because they were “not your typical customer on a Friday/Saturday night,” and by that, she said, she meant they were “not rude, obnoxious, doing shots” – they were polite, drinking Manny’s, seemed to be in a good mood, tipped well. Did she recall any profanity or unacceptable language? No.

She was asked next about the defendant, who she, like her former co-workers who testified last week, knew as “Cid,” though she said she did not know him very well and that he wasn’t very talkative or friendly toward her. Nonetheless, she was familiar with his habits, and that night, she said, he stayed longer than usual, and had more than his usual two martinis.

When at some point an officer came into the bar, described a “male suspect” and asked if she knew who that was: “I said it was Cid.”

She was on the stand for half an hour. Prosecutors had explained to Superior Court Judge Theresa Doyle earlier that two witnesses they had hoped to call were not available for various reasons (by the time the day was out, a third witness had also proven unavailable).

Second witness of the day, Alex Rivet, was questioned by the senior member of the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office team on the case, Margaret Nave.

Rivet is a college student and supermarket wine steward who was at Beveridge Place Pub that night with his friend Brian Knight, the shooting witness whose videotaped testimony was played back on Thursday.

So far, the Morgan Junction bar scene has been much-discussed in testimony, and Nave had Rivet explain why he, Knight, and friends went to the pub instead of the neighboring Feedback. That venue, he explained, “is more like a liquor bar; the Beveridge is more microbrews and wine,” and a little quieter.

His friend (Knight) went outside to smoke, and then, Rivet testified, minutes later appeared at the front door to BPP, trying to get his attention, motioning him to “come here, come here.” Rivet also said he thought he had heard “a loud clapping noise” from outside.

He went to join Knight, and said he saw Chambers, his hand inside his unzipped jacket, with an apparent gun handle visible. With a daytime photo of the pub and nearby Morgan Junction Park visible on the courtroom projection screen, Rivet was led through an explanation that Chambers’s “almost baby blue” BMW was parked in front of the pub, and that he watched him get into the car. By that point, Rivet said, “about half the bar” had joined him and Knight, watching. He said Chambers looked at his phone for 15 to 30 seconds, then put it away, started his car immediately, and U-turned right into the northbound lane of California SW, almost crashing into a southbound car.

Rivet said he also had seen the red truck – which belonged to Vause, who drove his wounded friend a mile and a half to Providence Mount St. Vincent, thinking it was a hospital – leave before that, also U-turning into northbound California SW. And, he said, he had called 911, to report that he believed someone had been shot, providing a description of Chambers’ car and its license-plate number. He said he stayed on the phone until the first police arrived minutes later, and, “I still didn’t quite believe what had happened until I went and investigated myself.” That involved going with Knight and another friend to the south edge of the park, where he says he saw bullet casings and what he thought was blood on the curb.

Under cross-examination by the defense team’s senior member Ben Goldsmith, Rivet acknowledged he had said in an interview last year that he had not heard gunshots that night.

He was followed on the stand by Southwest Precinct Officer Brian Koshak, one of more than 30 potential witnesses from SPD (according to the prosecution’s trial memorandum).

Questioned by deputy prosecutor Mari Isaacson, Koshak said he was a patrol officer on third watch (7:30 pm-4:30 am) at the time, dispatched as “primary officer” to the shooting scene on January 21, 2012. The person in that role is to get to the scene, find out what’s going on, and make decisions about what to do, he said. “When I first got there, the call was just ‘shots fired’ – we didn’t know the extent of what happened.”

(Remember, the victim had been taken from the scene by his friend.)

The extent started to become clear as he “found blood on the sidewalk and three shell casings from a .45-caliber handgun.”

He moved his patrol car onto the sidewalk to block it off (crime tape followed).

“Did you see a shovel in that area?” asked Isaacson.

“Yes.”

Koshak also spoke of getting Chambers’ name from a receipt located by Feedback staffers, one of whom described his car, enabling him to broadcast the description over police radio, while he gave the name to another officer in a patrol car, to use an in-car computer to try to find an address.

The subject of the Cal-Mor Circle public-housing building across California SW came up briefly, as it had with previous witness Rivet. Koshak said it was not canvassed for witnesses. Asked why, he said, “Usually, there’s people outside that building.” (Later, he added that it would be up to the arriving homicide detectives to decide where more witnesses would be sought.)

His testimony was punctuated by the daily hour-and-a-half lunch break. Afterward, the monitor displayed photos of the scene from the night of the shooting as he was asked to point out where he found the blood and shell casings, and where vehicles were parked that night.

Two more police witnesses followed. SW Precinct Officer Roberto Sabay‘s testimony was fairly short; he was the one who looked up Chambers’ address, but otherwise didn’t interview witnesses or handle evidence. Then Detective Edward Chan described being part of the team that went to Chambers’ house, less than a mile and a half southeast. They first gathered nearby – discussing logistics, especially vital given “the nature of the crime, involving weapons, shooting,” as Det. Chan noted – and then went to the house together. Chan said he and his partner stationed themselves behind Chambers’ house “for containment” and were there when they heard that the suspect was in custody.

The prosecution was out of witnesses for the day before 3 pm, so the jury got an early release. That was followed by about half an hour of discussion between the lawyers and Judge Doyle, mostly over Vause’s forthcoming testimony and a videotaped statement that the prosecution plans to play back during it.

Court is scheduled to resume Tuesday morning at 9 am.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE AND BACKSTORY: Links, in case you are catching up:

Trial report, Thursday 2/20/14 (first witnesses)
Trial report, Wednesday 2/19/14 (opening statements)

Charge reduced to second-degree murder (August 9, 2013)
Charges filed against Chambers (January 25, 2012)
Coverage the night it happened and the morning after (January 21-22, 2012)

15 Comments

  1. Thank you WSB for this superb journalism!

    Comment by cruzer — 8:08 am February 25, 2014 #

  2. This is poorly written and difficult to read.

    Comment by Garret — 10:08 am February 25, 2014 #

  3. Thanks, Garret, we always appreciate critiques, but they are most helpful when suggestions/specifics are offered. What would have made it easier for you to read?
    .
    Cruzer – thank you as well. My main goal with this is to chronicle, for those who care but can’t be here, how it’s unfolding, especially considering no other media are bothering with it – the Times wrote about the opening statements, and there’s always a chance they and/or others might parachute back in for key witnesses such as Jamie Vause, but otherwise, I’m the only reporter in the gallery.
    .
    Tracy

    Comment by WSB — 10:30 am February 25, 2014 #

  4. I’m with Cruzer — well done! Thank you for doing this, WSB.

    Comment by HappyOnAlki — 11:13 am February 25, 2014 #

  5. This is well written and very informative. I appreciate the writer spending long hours at the courthouse to keep us up to date and writing this in a truthful manner.

    Comment by Guy — 11:17 am February 25, 2014 #

  6. Yes, well done as usual.

    .

    There is a lot of info to digest here, but not because it is “poorly written”. On the contrary, it is professionally written and thorough.

    .

    Any “difficulty in reading”, is on the reader, and the level of their ability to comprehend and process the information.

    .

    Mike

    Comment by miws — 12:11 pm February 25, 2014 #

  7. Appreciate the coverage especially since no other media outlets are covering the trial. Thanks WSB!

    Comment by WSince86 — 12:14 pm February 25, 2014 #

  8. Thanks for the support, but seriously, suggestions welcome. The big dramatic days will likely read well, but this drip-by-drip testimony is challenging to turn into a narrative – this morning, what the forensic scientist was asked about DNA testing, and her resulting answers, probably will boil down to just a couple paragraphs, though she has been on the stand for 2 1/2 hours! – Tracy

    Comment by WSB — 12:19 pm February 25, 2014 #

  9. Having served on the jury of a murder previously, I know that the press was not there until the verdict was read. The press than proceeded to question why the jury could fail to come to a verdict. If the press had been there through the entire trial, they would have understood that it was not a simple as the prosecutor would have liked them to believe. This was NOT a WS murder, just to make it clear I am not suggesting the WSBlog should have been there.
    My point is that it is fantastic to have someone covering this trial in such detail. If the verdict is not what is expected, we should all be able to have some idea as to why it might be.
    Thank you, WSB.
    Alan

    Comment by Alan — 12:32 pm February 25, 2014 #

  10. Thank you Tracy for the excellent coverage on this case. Keep doing what you are doing on it if you have time.

    Comment by dsa — 1:25 pm February 25, 2014 #

  11. Alan, that’s a good point. It’s why I am always regretful if I can’t get downtown to a bail or arraignment hearing, because while I can get the bottom-line fact through court docs or the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, they can’t provide the nuance. In this case, absent some MASSIVE HUGE GIANT breaking-news story, I’m committed to this. We covered the month-long trial of two defendants in the Steve Bushaw murder (2011 trial in 2009 case) and before that, a murder trial that actually ended in a self-defense exoneration, the 59th/Admiral shooting in 2007 (trial 2008). And we go to sentencing hearings as often as we can – usually one-afternoon events.

    Comment by WSB — 1:41 pm February 25, 2014 #

  12. Thanks for keeping us updated on this story, this was a shocking crime that affected so many people.

    RIP Travis Hood.

    Comment by West Seattle Hipster — 4:45 pm February 25, 2014 #

  13. I recently sat on a jury and this description is right on. The lawyers present their case over time, using multiple witnesses and other forms of testimony. It is a LOT of hurry and up and wait. From the defendant’s perspective, he/she is entitled to a fair trial with a jury of their peers. You would want the same if it were you. It takes time to build a good case, and it should, especially when a lengthy prison sentence is one possible outcome. And, unless you have been there, it’s very difficult to follow the narrative with all the interruptions and breaks to the flow. I think TR is doing a great job and a great service.

    Comment by Recent Juror — 5:21 pm February 25, 2014 #

  14. I think your doing a great job… All the detail is good… Only suggestion would be to maybe have a more brief overview and thene go on to the detail for those who want or have time to read it?

    Comment by Morgan resident — 6:09 pm February 25, 2014 #

  15. I think your coverage is right on..I really appreciate you reporting on my sons case.i want everyone to know he was the best son very caring to every living person, nature and animals.we all miss him dearly. RIP TO ALL 3 OF MY SONS

    Comment by brenda hood — 7:06 pm February 25, 2014 #

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