Hoops prospect testifies in cousin's murder case

February 28, 2008 1:41:49 PM PST
A top prep basketball recruit bolstered his cousin's self-defense claim in court Thursday by testifying that he heard a gunshot outside his SUV before the cousin allegedly fired a lethal shot from the front seat. Tyreke Evans, named this month to the McDonald's All-American Team, said he was driving with a teammate and two cousins Nov. 25 in Chester Heights when his passengers shouted that someone was running toward them with a gun.

"I was pulling off and I heard a gunshot," Evans testified.

He ducked, then drove off. Moments later, he heard a second, closer shot, and saw front-seat passenger Jamar Evans, 16, putting a small handgun into his hooded sweat shirt.

Tyreke Evans resumed driving to his mother's house, while the 19-year-old victim, Marcus Reason, collapsed and died.

Evans, a 6-foot-6 guard at nearby American Christian, played local games after the shooting amid tightened security because of concerns about his safety. A two-time state player of the year, his short list of colleges includes Memphis, Louisville and Villanova.

Evans, 18, has not been charged in the case, although police complained that he did not talk to them until Dec. 18, three days before they charged his cousin with murder.

Jamar Evans' lawyer plans to argue self-defense, even though police found no gun on the victim.

"Anybody could have walked off with the gun," defense lawyer Tracie Marie Burns said after Thursday's hearing.

She argued that there was no evidence of premeditation or malice, but a judge nonetheless upheld both first- and third-degree murder charges. Jamar Evans remains jailed.

"Tyreke is clearly Jamar's first cousin, but I think his testimony is still truthful," Burns said. "The facts support that the young man who unfortunately died in this incident fired first, and Jamar fired back."

Both sides agree that the shooting stemmed from little more than a crosstown rivalry.

"Chester has a neighborhood rivalry going, generally," Burns said. "It's nothing specific about these two kids."

The Evans' group was leaving the home of Tyreke Evans' aunt and were on their way to his mother's house in Chester for pie that Sunday afternoon. Reason had told neighbor Keith Gale that day that he had some "problems" with the visitors, Gale testified.

Gale said he was walking toward his porch after talking with Reason when he heard what he called "a little gunshot." He turned and saw Reason fall to the ground on a nearby lawn. Gale testified that he heard just the one shot.

Relatives of both Evans and Reason declined to comment Thursday.