YORK COUNTY, S.C. (Rock Hill Herald) - The case of a North Carolina man accused of firing a gun near supporters of President Donald Trump on a York County bridge will go before a grand jury, a magistrate ruled Wednesday.
A South Carolina prosecutor argued in court that Marquise Damarius Asomani intended to shoot at the people. However, the lawyer representing Asomani said her client, and others in the car, were “unwise,” but there was no intent to hurt anyone.
No one was hurt.
Asomani, 23, of Charlotte, is accused of shooting near the Sutton Road bridge over Interstate 77 in Fort Mill on Aug. 24. At the time shots were fired, about 60 Trump supporters were waving flags while on the bridge, police and prosecutors said.
The shooting scene is near the North Carolina state line, south of Charlotte.
Wednesday’s court proceeding was a preliminary hearing. Such hearings give a defendant the right to be heard before a grand jury considers the case. In such a hearing, a magistrate judge listens to arguments and decides if there is probable cause to send the case to the grand jury.
York County Magistrate Judge John Dover ruled that there is probable cause for prosecutors to move forward seeking indictments against Asomani on six counts of first-degree assault and battery, pointing and presenting a gun, illegal carrying of a firearm, and possession of marijuana with intent to distribute.
Each of the assault and battery first-degree charges carries a potential punishment of 10 years in prison if convicted under South Carolina law.
No date has been set for the case to be heard by a York County grand jury. Under S.C. law, the case can go to trial only if a grand jury issues indictments.
TRUMP WAS SPEAKING IN CHARLOTTE
The gun shots in Fort Mill happened the day Trump was speaking in Charlotte at the Republican National Convention.
Police and prosecutors have video taken by a person who was in the car with Asomani that shows Asomani allegedly fired the gun at least four times after shouting obscenities at Trump supporters, said Jennifer Colton, 16th Circuit assistant solicitor.
The car driven by Asomani exited Interstate 77 at Sutton Road, Colton said. The video showed the confrontation and shots being fired, Colton and Fort Mill Police Department Detective Kyle Gregory said in court. The video has not been released publicly and was not played in court. The video shows Asomani firing from the car as the car turned onto the I-77 entrance ramp from the bridge area, Colton and Gregory said in court.
“What we do know is this individual (Asomani), in his own words, intended to shoot at these individuals, these Trump supporters,” Colton told York County Magistrate Judge John Dover.
The other people in the car with Asomani were not charged, Colton said.
Gregory testified that witnesses and victims told police that Asomani and others in the car shouted obscenities and flipped off the Trump supporters while driving across the bridge twice before the shots were fired.
Asomani fled before he was arrested by S.C. Highway Patrol troopers and Fort Mill Police Department officers, Colton said. A nearby trooper heard the shots before pursuing Asomani, Colton said.
None of the six victims or any other people who were on the bridge were in court Wednesday.
Asomani was originally charged with six counts of assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature because only six people gave police statements, Gregory said. Asomani also was charged with pointing and presenting a gun and illegal carrying of a firearm.
Colton agreed in court that the assault and battery charge should be reduced from a high and aggravated nature because no one was injured, but the threat of injury or death was clear.
“His intent was to shoot at them,” Colton said. “The people on the bridge were frightened.”
Asomani was later charged with possession of marijuana with intent to distribute after police and prosecutors said he threw a bag with 80 grams of drugs into woods while fleeing the scene.
Asomani was released on $75,000 bail shortly after his arrest in August. He was not in court Wednesday.
Asomani’s lawyer, Twana Burris-Alcide of Rock Hill, did not refute in court that shots were fired. However, the shots were fired upward into the air after Asomani left the bridge, Burris-Alicide said.
She argued that police over-charged Asomani and that the proper charge is firing a weapon inside the town limits.
“None of the victims said any of the shots were fired at them,” Burris-Alcide said. “No one was hurt...The shots were fired up in the air...What we have is young men who were very unwise and taunting the alleged victims.”
No shots were fired while the car was on the bridge, Burris-Alcide said.