AUSTIN, Texas – Day four of witness testimony in the De’Ondre White murder trial revealed a witness claimed she felt protected by White’s actions during the 2021 mass shooting.
This testimony came from Assiah Howard, a friend of White, who was with him the night of the shooting. This is one of the first times a witness has corroborated the defense’s claim that White fired his gun in self-defense.
Howard says Jeramiah Tabb instigated the encounter with the other group of kids from Killeen the night of the shooting. She told the jury she and her friends were angry with his actions.
She recalls Tabb was talking to a kid in a ski mask, who had previously been identified during this trial as 15-year-old Tyshawn Degrate. During the encounter, Howard remembers seeing Degrate lift his sweatshirt and flash a gun tucked in his pants. Howard says she feared for her life.
In day two of witness testimony, Degrate testified he accidentally flashed his gun.
Howard says she was standing next to White during the shooting, but she never saw him use his gun.
She admits the friend group did have a mutual understanding White was involved in the mass shooting that killed Douglas Kantor and injured 14 others, but she says none of their friends were mad at White because she believes White protected them.
“One of them pulled a weapon out of his waistband and Mr. White felt that he had no choice but to defend himself and his friends,” said defense attorney William Browning during opening statements.
Almost all of White’s friends who were with him the night of the shooting testified. So far, all of those friends told the jury they did not see White pull out his weapon and shoot, but knew he was somehow involved.
Many of the detectives who interviewed these kids testified previously and said both Killeen groups were clearly trying to protect themselves during the investigation. The state warned the jury in their opening statements about this kind of vague testimony from both Killeen groups.
“These people did not want to be involved, and, for various reasons, whether it was loyalty to De’Ondre White, whether it was just general opposition to cooperating with law enforcement, whether it was fear of consequences for themselves or their involvement, they did not want to come forward. They did not want to tell the truth about what happened,” said state attorney Jean Sullivan during opening statements.
Doug O’Connell, defense attorney and lawyer for the Kantor family, says it will ultimately be up to the jury to decide which testimony is valid while deliberating whether White is guilty of murder.
“One of the things the judge will say, and they all say this to the jury, is, ‘you are the people who determine the credibility of the witnesses’ and what that means is the jury is free to disregard everything a witness says if they don’t believe that person is speaking the truth and that could be very important in this case,” he said.
Heaven Chappell, another friend of White, told the jury she was not with the friend group during the shooting, but met up with them to go back to Killeen. She heard Tabb ask White for his gun after the shooting.
The trial continues Tuesday, Sept. 5. The judge says the jury could start deliberating as early as next Wednesday.