Eyewitness: First shots fired at Houstons came from cruiser

Eyewitness: First shots fired at Houstons came from deputy's cruiser

Posted: Updated: Nov 6, 2009 05:58 PM EST
Leon Houston and his brother Rocky  are charged with first degree murder in the fatal 2006 shootings of Deputy Bill Jones and Mike Brown. Leon Houston and his brother Rocky are charged with first degree murder in the fatal 2006 shootings of Deputy Bill Jones and Mike Brown.
Anne Watts said Jones' cruiser drove past the house slowly. That agitated Rocky, prompting him to grab a rifle. Anne Watts said Jones' cruiser drove past the house slowly. That agitated Rocky, prompting him to grab a rifle.
FBI agent Buddy Early said Watts told him that Rocky Houston fired the first shots. FBI agent Buddy Early said Watts told him that Rocky Houston fired the first shots.

By ANN KEIL
6 News Reporter

KINGSTON (WATE) -- A woman who says she was there when a Roane County deputy and his ride-along friend were killed told a Roane County jury the first shots came from the officer's cruiser.

Anne Watts took the stand Friday in Leon Houston's retrial on murder charges.

Leon and his brother, Rocky Houston, are charged with first degree murder in the fatal 2006 shootings of Deputy Bill Jones and Mike Brown. 

The brothers are being tried separately. Both were tried previously, but in both cases the juries were unable to reach verdicts.

Watts testified that she hung out with the brothers for just over two weeks before shootout. She was on the porch the day of the shooting, smoking marijuana with the brothers and two other friends.

She said Jones' cruiser drove past the house slowly. That agitated Rocky, prompting him to grab a rifle. She says Leon was "concerned."

At that point, Watts told the jury, Rocky said "It's on."

When Jones' cruiser pulled into the gravel driveway, Rocky headed to the vehicle and stood "right next to the cruiser." He was at the driver side window when the cruiser stopped. Leon was still on the porch.

Watts said "as soon as the driver puts the car in park" the first shot was fired. Watts said that shot came from the passenger side of the cruiser, which is where Brown was sitting.

"I never said [Rocky] stepped off the porch and started shooting first," she said in response to questioning by prosecutor Ken Irvine.

Watts said the shootout "started and ended within 10 minutes."

According to Watts, Leon "wasn't expecting any kind of trouble."

"As far as I know, he was unarmed that day," she told the jury.


FBI investigator contradicts Watts' testimony

The prosecution followed Watts' testimony by bringing FBI agent Buddy Early to the stand. Early was one of the crime scene investigators after the shooting.

"There was chaos," Early said, when he arrived at the Houston home.

Early said he interviewed Watts later that day in her home. She told him that day that Rocky fired the first shots.

Defense attorney Jim Logan challenged Early on his testimony, raising several questions about how he interviewed Watts and why the interview was not recorded.

"We don't always record everything witnesses say," Early answered. Instead, Early said, he tries to organize the statements because witnesses tend to wander with what they're saying.


Trooper says he took Leon Houston into custody

Tennessee Highway Patrol Trooper Mike Melhorn told the jury he responded to a call from Leon Houston, saying Leon wanted to surrender himself.

After the arrest, Melhorn said, Leon told him "his family had been targeted [by law enforcement] since the Civil War days."


Defense reads from testimony of last trial

In an unusual move, the defense was allowed to present testimony before the state had finished presenting its case.

Irvine told the judge testimony from a Tennessee Bureau of Investigation ballistics analyst would take longer than time was available Friday, so Judge David Hayes allowed the defense to begin presenting its proof.

Logan read from testimony Randall "Teddy" Townsend presented in Leon Houston's previous trial. Townsend has since passed away.

In the first trial, Townsend told jurors he had a confrontation with Jones earlier on the day of the shooting.

"He took his right hand and he patted his gun and he said, 'If you see Rocky Houston, Townsend, you tell him that I have something for him," Townsend said in July 2008.

Judge Hayes said he expects the case will be handed to jury by next Friday.

 


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