Defense: Auburn player who was killed at party opened fire
ALEXANDER CITY, Ala. (AP) A man charged with killing an Auburn University football player opened fire because the athlete also was shooting a gun during a party, a defense lawyer said Monday.
Markhale Hart, 22, was defending himself when 18-year-old Jakell Mitchell was shot to death in Auburn last month, said Mark Allen Treadwell, an attorney for Hart.
”It was absolutely self-defense,” he said in an interview after a hearing on Hart’s probation status. ”Today was a real glimpse of what this case is going to evolve into.”
Both men fired multiple shots during an argument, said Treadwell.
”It was like the shootout at the OK Corral,” he added.
Treadwell represented Hart during a hearing in which a judge revoked probation for Hart, who was released early after serving six months in jail on a burglary conviction in 2012.
A probation officer’s report asking the judge to revoke Hart’s probation said the man acknowledged killing the player during a late-night party at an apartment complex in Auburn last Dec. 14.
Testimony during the hearing showed that Hart and Mitchell both opened fire, and that Hart was moving away from Mitchell when the fatal shot was fired, said Treadwell.
Hart later tested positive for marijuana use, but toxicology results aren’t yet available for Mitchell, Treadwell said.
Authorities had not previously disclosed allegations that Mitchell was armed and opened fire, but additional evidence could be revealed during a preliminary hearing set for Tuesday in Alabama’s Lee County, where the killing occurred.
The probation report said a witness told police that Mitchell got into an argument with a brother of Tyrone Ware, who isn’t otherwise identified. The brother pointed a gun at Mitchell and fired several times, according to the document.
Treadwell said a statement by Hart and a police investigation showed that Mitchell fired several shots with a .45-caliber handgun, and Hart fired a .40-caliber weapon. The path of the casings fired by Hart was ”streaming away” from Mitchell, he said.
Investigators found the gun Mitchell was using but the other weapon remains missing, Treadwell said.
Mitchell was pronounced dead at a hospital, and Hart was arrested hours later at his home in Tallapoosa County, documents show.
Mitchell was killed during a party at Tiger Lodge apartments, a large complex a few miles from the Auburn campus that caters to college students.
The complex – since renamed and with what promotional materials describe as added security features – is the same place where one-time Auburn football players Ed Christian and Ladarious Phillips and a third man, DeMario Pitts, were shot to death during an argument at a late-night gathering in June 2012. Desmonte Leonard was convicted of capital murder in that case and is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 20.