Witness: Shooter in Jamal Coates Murder “took off the safety and just started firing”

Miko Thompson, 24, grew up with Jamal Coates playing sports at the Maria H. Reed Recreational Center from the time he was about 11 years old. But over the past two days, Thompson has been testifying about the shooting that killed 21-year-old Coates in September 2010.

Keir Johnson and Lester Williams are charged with first-degree murder in connection with the 2010 murder of Coates, who was shot and killed while leaving a friend’s funeral in the U Street corridor.

Prosecutors allege that Johnson and Williams, along with Robert Givens and Marcellus Jackson, are members of a group called “G-Rod,” a group of 20 or so members living near 14th and Girard Street Northwest. The four men were indicted on 80 criminal counts including conspiracy, first-degree murder, obstruction of justice, assault, and weapons charges related to the deaths of Paul Jones, Sean Robinson and Coates.

On Tuesday, Thompson testified that beginning in 2005, he and his friends from the 17th and Euclid area often argued with the alleged G-Rod crew. “We would have verbal disagreements, verbal threats between us, in the streets,” he said. “When I am out I have to take precautions, prepare myself for everything and be aware of my surroundings.”

But on Sept. 28, 2010, Thompson attended Ashley McRae’s funeral at the Walker Memorial Baptist Church, on 13th and V Street Northwest. Together with Coates and his friend Phil Tompkins, the three men had no arguments or confrontations with anyone that day: “We were there to pay respect,” Thompson said. The men left the church at 11:45 a.m., walked to Tompkins’ copper dodge parked on U Street, and prepared to drive to a funeral procession.

Thompson told jurors he then noticed a man with a black t-shirt covering his face run to the driver’s side of the car. The man raised a gun and aimed it at the driver’s seat towards Tompkins, “but the gun jammed”, Thompson said.

Then, Thompson said, the shooter “took off the safety and just started firing.” The scene was “chaotic”, with “around 10 shots” fired into the car.

Tompkins managed to drive the car away while Thompson sat crouched in the back seat until “something hit us and we flipped over”, Thompson testified. After that, Thompson crawled from the car’s window and ran, “still in fear for my life,” he told jurors. In the moment, Thompson did not know that Coates had been shot and killed, he testified.

The moment before Coates died, “He was happy,” Thompson said. “He was Jamal.”

The trial is scheduled to resume Monday at 9:30 a.m.

An earlier version of this story misstated that Thompson, Coates, and Tompkins were driving home. The men were driving to a funeral procession.

Additional reporting by Ivan Natividad

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