The Walt Butler murder trial continued Wednesday with State Attorney Robert Sombathy calling a string of witnesses to the stand.
Police officers who responded to the shooting at Pine Ridge Apartments on July 30, 2012 recounted the evening’s events.
According to the officers, when they arrived on scene, Butler and his friend Robert Lynn, who was also in the apartment when Everett Gant was shot, came outside and were ordered to the ground.
Lynn complied while Butler retreated back indoors, closing the door behind him. All officers agreed that Butler’s noncompliance raised tension at the scene of the crime.
“Anytime firearms are involved, you’re worried that someone else might get shot,” said former Gulf County Sheriff Joe Nugent from the stand.
Deputies Richard Burkett and Vincent Everett along with Nugent, who ultimately made contact with Butler, reported smelling alcohol about his person and said that throughout the process, Butler maintained a blank demeanor.
“He was calm and unconcerned with what was going on at the time,” said Burkett.
Defense attorney Mark Sims asked each officer if it was unrealistic for Butler to sit down and eat following a shooting, knowing that there was potentially a long night of questioning ahead.
“Never in all my years have I seen a shooting suspect stop to eat,” said Nugent. “I wouldn’t think that’d be a thing on your mind at the time.”
Burkett said that he found the “weak and bloody” Gant seated on Butler’s back patio and that Butler sat just on the other side of the glass door, watching television with his back to the victim.
Lynn, who was living with Butler at the time, took the stand and contradicted his prior depositions that Gant made threatening remarks toward the men once the door sliding glass door was opened.
Ultimately, Lynn said from the stand that he’d consumed alcohol prior to all of his depositions and had consumed two beers prior to his testimony at the trial.
On the day of the shooting, he said that he and Butler consumed between 10-14 beers each.
Sombathy played the 911 recordings from Butler and Kenneth Dunham, Butler’s neighbor who was with Gant when he approached Butler’s apartment.
After Butler told the dispatcher that he’d shot a man who tried to get into his home, he explained that he was a white man and the man he had shot was black.
The phone receiver was then set down and Butler could be overheard in the background asking Lynn to bring him another beer.
An unanswered question lingering over the courtroom was who opened the sliding glass door.
Dunham, who said he followed Gant to the apartment trying to defuse the situation, said that Lynn opened the door and Butler immediately fired his .22 rifle.
Lynn testified that Gant aggressively opened it himself, but witnesses who lived in the apartment complex maintained that the door was kept locked at all times.
“The door is always locked,” said Dunham. “Everyone knows that.”
In his testimony, Lynn said that Butler’s door was always locked as a rule.
Dunham, a current inmate of the Gulf County jail has two previous felonies for theft, had his credibility questioned by Sims.
Not in dispute was that once the door to the apartment was opened, no words were spoken by Gant, though Lynn said that he appeared more aggressive than normal.
The trial will continue at 9 a.m. ET on Thursday at the Gulf County Courthouse.