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Authorities say 15-year-old Zaevion Dobson died shielding his friends from gunfire. Now three men are on trial for his death. Proceedings continue Wednesday in a Knox County, Tennessee courtroom.
Christopher Drone Bassett, 22, Kipling Colbert Jr., 22, and Richard Gregory Williams III, 23, are charged with first-degree murder. Prosecutors said they were among two carfuls of gunmen who opened fire on a crowd of people Dec. 17, 2015. Police said Dobson shielded two girls from the gunfire.
“He had dropped to the ground by then and he grabbed us and he was trying to put chairs on top of us,” friend Faith Gordon told WATE in 2016. “He was telling us to get down.”
He was shot and killed, police said.
Dobson’s act of bravery and self-sacrifice caught national attention. ESPN made a documentary about his brief life and gave him a posthumous award. Then-President Barack Obama commended him.
This complicated the case, as attorneys for Bassett, Colbert, and Williams all worried about media coverage tainting potential jurors in the Knoxville area.
Opening statements took place on Tuesday. Knox County Assistant District Attorney Phil Morton said shooters opened fire at least 34 times. The attack was part of a rash of gang-related shootings. Dobson died at the scene, Morton said. The teen and the girls had no idea why the shooting happened, he said.
Bassett is represented by attorney T. Scott Jones, Colbert by Rhonda Lee, and Williams by Kit Rodgers. In their opening statements, they tried to puncture the state’s case. Morton said that the defendants appeared in a rap video, and its content proved they were in a gang. Lee claimed the footage proved nothing criminal.
“They wanted to be rappers,” she said. “They’d get together and they’d make a rap video. They’re not even singing. They’re lip-syncing.”
The three defendants also face charges of first-degree attempted murder, and employing a firearm during a dangerous felony. Bassett was also indicted on a count of unlawful possession of a weapon. His attorney had tried and failed to get the case tried in another jurisdiction.
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[Image of Dobson via Facebook]
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