Police witnesses: Spray of gunfire killed 3, scattered Lawrence crowds

Former police officer Tyler Haney viewed dash cam video Thursday showing him running toward gunfire in Lawrence. Anthony Laron Roberts Jr. is charged with three murders. (WIBW/Steve Fry)
Former police officer Tyler Haney viewed dash cam video Thursday showing him running toward gunfire in Lawrence. Anthony Laron Roberts Jr. is charged with three murders. (WIBW/Steve Fry)(WIBW)
Published: Jun. 13, 2019 at 5:50 PM CDT
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Amid gunshots and muzzles flashes, panicked pedestrians scattered in all directions to flee the gunfire, two Lawrence police officers testified Thursday in Douglas County District Court.

It was chaos after gunshots erupted at 1:40 a.m. on Oct. 1, 2017 at 11th and Massachusetts Street, the officers said.

Anthony Laron Roberts Jr., 22, of Topeka, is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Colwin Lynn Henderson III, 20, and Tre'Mel Dupree Dean-Rayton, 24, both of Topeka; one count of second-degree murder in the shooting death of Leah Elizabeth Brown, 22, of Shawnee; and one count of attempted second-degree murder of Tahzay Rayton

Thursday was the fourth day of Roberts' trial after a jury was chosen during the first three days.

Witnesses testified that two men opened fire about 50 yards west of several police officers tasked with making a display of law enforcement in the downtown and were monitoring the crowds in downtown Lawrence on the October night in 2017.

Lawrence Police officer Tyler Haney was part of the law enforcement presence when his police cruiser was parked on the intersection's northeast corner in a parking lot.

The "take down" lights on Haney's police car illuminated the lot.

Haney sensed light flashes, then heard two gunshots, then focused on more muzzles flashes followed by a series of gunshots.

Haney started running toward the gunshots, pulling his pistol and saw a gunman with his arm outstretched and firing north on Massachusetts. Haney saw the pistol in the shooter's hand, he testified.

A police car dash cam showed the gunman and a spray of bullets as well as Haney and a second officer as they ran in front of Haney's car.

People ran in all directions in the intersection.

Haney saw someone fall facedown on the pavement. Haney administered pressure to the gunshot wound suffered by Leah Elizabeth Brown.

"I worked to do whatever I could do to save her, to keep her heartbeat," Haney said. "I was holding her when the life left her body."

Members of Brown's family cried as they listened as Haney described the young woman's last moments.

"She was my focus, she was my priority," Haney said of Brown.

Lawrence Police Officer Mike Shanks called the shootings in the downtown intersection "one of the most chaotic situations I've been in."

Shanks cautiously approached a group of people surrounding someone lying on the ground.

"I had a very hard time getting to him because there were a lot of people around him," Shanks said of the wounded man. Some people tried to aid the man, but "most were hanging around him trying to take video." Thirty to 40 people were around the wounded man identified as Colwin Lynn Henderson III, 20, of Topeka.

"I gave numerous orders to people to get back, I pushed people back," said Shanks, a big man.

Shanks couldn't hear the law enforcement dispatcher in his ear piece because there were so many people yelling around the officer.

Shanks and a second officer decided to transport Henderson to the hospital in a police car rather than waiting for an ambulance. Henderson was on the "verge of imminent death, and if he didn't get treatment, he would die," Shanks said. The two officers picked up Henderson's torso, and two bystanders carried his legs, Shanks said, then placed him in the police vehicle's prisoner compartment.

It took no more than two-and-a-half minutes to transport Henderson from the downtown intersection to the Lawrence hospital, Shanks said.

Henderson eventually was pronounced dead.

The third slaying victim, Tre'Mel Dupree Dean-Rayton, 24, also was transported to the Lawrence hospital.

Since the triple slayings in 2017, Shanks, a Lawrence police officer for 28 years and an officer at other departments for five more years, and Haney have resigned from the Lawrence department.

Roberts is the third of three defendants remaining in the 2017 shootings.

On May 8, defendant Ahmad Malik Rayton, 25, was sentenced to 10 years in prison after he pleaded guilty on April 3 to one count of attempted voluntary manslaughter for shooting at one man.

Ahmad Rayton originally was charged with two counts of attempted second-degree murder and one count of felon in possession of a firearm.

In March, McMillon, a co-defendant, 20, of Topeka, pleaded no contest to misdemeanor battery and was sentenced to 180 days in jail, which he completed before he was sentenced.

During opening statements on Wednesday, the prosecution alleged that Roberts fired a series of 15 shots, striking the three slaying victims.

A second gunman fired six shots, prosecutors said.

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