Jakkari Jaquille De'Andre Brown took the stand in his murder trial Wednesday, describing the fear he felt on the night he shot and killed Roger Ramos at a Myrtle Beach bar.
“It’s still a blur,” Brown said. “I know what I did, my actions. I was scared then; I was scared of the trouble.”
Brown shot Ramos in the face after a brawl broke out at RipTydz Oceanfront Grille & Rooftop Bar in 2018 during a UFC watch party. After the shooting, Brown was arrested in a nearby parking lot. His trial is expected to wrap up this week.
Brown had been working with Towersite Services (TSS), a telecommunications company, for about six months before the incident. He had been traveling with a few of his co-workers to meet up with some other people at RipTydz and had also gone to the bar with them the night before the shooting.
Following along with 15th Circuit Public Defender Eric Fox’s interpretation of events, Brown explained how he got caught up in the violence that had erupted after the bizarre conclusion of the UFC fight between Conor McGregor and Khabib Nurmagomedov.
RipTydz played host to multiple brawls on its third floor that night.
Brown said people got physical and he was getting shoved, which made him fearful. At one point, he said one of his friends was put in a chokehold and he tried to free him. He and Fox acted out in front of the jury what happened at this point in the night.
Then a bottle was thrown in Brown’s direction and just missed him, he said. He testified that he pulled his Taurus 9mm out, panicked by the escalating tension, but didn’t point it at anyone. He said Ramos approached him but backed away when Brown raised his gun higher. He then turned away and just as he did so, he said someone struck him on the side of his face. It was at this point that he fired the gun, he said.
Brown said he threw his gun away because he knew people were already scared and didn’t want them to see him with one. Later he picked his gun back up and returned it to his bag because he knew he was going to turn himself in. He told the arresting officer that the gun and everything in the bag belonged to him.
“I took [the gun] with me so I could turn myself in,” Brown said. “I wasn’t going to run anyway.”
15th Circuit Senior Solicitor George DeBusk questioned whether Brown had checked the South Carolina law regarding carrying firearms in public places. Brown said he had not.
“You’re afraid of getting in fights, but you went into a bar carrying a gun?” DeBusk asked Brown.
Because he didn’t have a record prior to the incident, Brown said he thought he could carry his pistol on his person.
15th Circuit Assistant Solicitor Seth Oskin called Tyler Hembree to the stand earlier in the day Wednesday. Hembree worked with TSS at the time of the shooting and was with five of his co-workers at RipTydz that night. Hembree was staying in a hotel at the time and was doing work on rooftops after the aftermath of hurricanes in the area.
Hembree said all of the coworkers, including Brown, were drinking at the time of the incident. He described the scene as “a big commotion that led to more and more fights breaking out.”
Hembree said he avoided the fighting. And after he heard the gunshot, he left with his coworkers. He didn't see who fired the gun.
Hembree fled across the street to the hotel, he said, and then Brown called him on his phone to ask where he was.
“When he opened the door, he had this big look of shock on his face, it made me ask him if he had shot him,” Hembree said. “He didn’t give me a vocal confirmation or anything. He fell on the floor, crying. He tried to stay in the hotel room. ‘You can’t stay here,’ I was saying. ‘Let me go grab an officer.’ I didn’t want to be involved. I believed that he shot him.”
He went to the lobby and informed the officers of where Brown was.
During a cross examination, Fox asked Hembree if RipTydz employees tried to help de-escalate the situation. Hembree said they tried, but it was difficult because most everyone seemed intoxicated.
Hembree said he saw Ramos on the ground, but he didn’t see Ramos involved in any of the violence that happened that night. There were so many officers on foot entering the bar, it was “chaos,” Hembree said.
Prosecutors also called Nick Blake, who was working at RipTydz as a bartender on the night of the incident. Blake said he had worked with Ramos for over a year. The staff was like “family.”
“He was a very genuine person; he meant a lot to me,” Blake said.
Once people began getting violent, he tried to intervene where he could. He saw Brown and Ramos confronting each other.
“‘I’m gonna [expletive] you up,’” Blake said he heard Brown say. Blake said he believed that Brown was about to do something, so he put his hands up and walked away. And then he heard a gunshot.
On Thursday, the prosecution and the defense are expected to give closing statements, after which the jury will deliberate.