KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) ━ Testimonies given during Thursday’s preliminary hearing for University of Tennessee senior safety Jaylen McCollough show a difference in viewpoints and opinions about what happened that day in October.
People at the hearing in Knox County court heard McCollough speak for the first time since the early October incident at his apartment complex that left a man injured.
McCollough, 22, and Zion Spencer, 22, each took the stand to give the court their statements under oath about what happened. Both were questioned by attorneys.
Spencer said he believed that he was entering a friend’s apartment, but it turned out to be McCollough’s. He realized he was in the wrong place and apologized, explaining he did not enter the apartment but rather had just one foot on the threshold.
“I didn’t mean to show up here, I’m lost. My friend’s name is Connor Smith do you know him by chance?’ And he tells me no, I don’t know who that is,” Spencer said, describing the beginning of the encounter with McCollough.
Spencer said he was leaving when McCollough came after him and punched him in the face.
“I’m assuming the door was closing already, my head’s turned,” Spencer said. “I hear him running up and I turn, and by the time I turn around he just smashes my face in with his fist.”
McCollough, charged with felony aggravated assault, told the court that is not what happened.
McCollough told the court that Spencer did make it inside the apartment and testified that Spencer appeared to have been drinking and was mumbling, asking for a phone charger. McCollough said Spencer wouldn’t leave after being asked to do so.
“I have an air vent that sits inside my apartment about three feet from the door and he was about right at the air vent,” McCollough said. “The whole time I’m like I can’t help you sir, like you need to leave, and that’s the only thing I kept telling him, like I just want you out my house, you need to leave.”
McCollough’s roommate and teammate Warren Burrell, who was in the apartment at the time and is a witness, also testified that Spencer refused to leave. Burrell said McCollough and Spencer eventually moved closer to the door, but said Spencer still wouldn’t leave.
“So he got to the front door, the tone switched, he [Spencer] got argumentative, they went back and forth, kept going. I walked up to the door, it kept going, it kept escalating and then it just happened,” Burrell said.
The judge weighs in
Judge Andrew Jackson VI said that both sides presented two different stories, but the two undisputed facts in the case are that Spencer was intoxicated and Mr. McCollough hit him.
“So I’ve got two different stories here,” Jackson said following the testimony and questioning Thursday. “Mr. McCollough may very well have a good self-defense case, but that’s something the jury is going to have to decide… The fact remains that this is an assault case, and we hear assault cases all the time and often there are conflicting stories about what happened in an assault case as in this case. And in those cases as in this case, that’s going to be a question for a jury to decide – who they find to be more credible. For a jury to decide whether or not, if they’re instructed on self-defense, whether self-defense was appropriate on this case.”
Jackson wants to send the case to a grand jury. A hearing date has not been set.