LIMA — Jurors in the Allen County murder trial of Deontray Forrest deliberated for three hours Thursday before finding the Lima man guilty of murder in the 2020 shooting death of 25-year-old Timothy White. Guilty verdicts were also returned on single counts felonious assault and having weapons under disability.
The verdicts were announced shortly before The Lima News went to press. Sentencing was taking place at press time.
Jurors were handed the case late Thursday afternoon following a full day of testimony, closing arguments and instructions on applicable law.
Throughout the week the panelists heard testimony and saw video surrounding the events that occurred inside and just outside Levels Lounge in downtown Lima on Feb. 4, 2020. Three persons died that morning when Lima resident Timothy White shot and killed Devontae Upshaw and his own brother, Terell McGraw, just inside the front door of the bar. Forrest then followed the fleeing White into a parking lot adjacent to the bar and fired several shots in what he testified was in response to fear for his own safety and that of a friend. White’s body was found by a sheriffs’s deputy lying face down in the walkway leading from the parking lot to Main Street. He had been shot in the chest and legs.
Forrest, 27, was indicted on two counts of murder, unclassified felonies, along with a second-degree felony charge of felonious assault. Each count includes a firearm specification. He was also charged with having weapons under disability.
Self-defense arguments made
Attorneys for both sides spent time during closing arguments instructing jurors about Ohio’s self-defense law — a cornerstone of Forrest’s defense.
Allen County Prosecuting Attorney Destiny Caldwell told jurors, “Deontray Forrest killed Tim White for no other reason than he didn’t like him and that he had just killed (Forrest’s) friend inside the bar.”
She said self-defense statutes did not apply because Forrest was the aggressor in the parking lot incident and personally created the situation by firing the first shot as White jogged away.
“This was nothing more than a revenge killing,” the prosecutor said.
James Owen, representing Forrest, painted a different picture for jurors. He said that under the terms of Ohio’s version of the “Stand Your Ground” law, Forrest had no “duty to retreat” as alleged by prosecutors.
“He was not trespassing (when he discharged a weapon in White’s direction) and he was not the initial aggressor. Deontray Forrest was clearly not at fault for creating this situation,” Owen said.
Defendant returned to the stand
The morning session in Allen County Common Pleas Court on Thursday was spent with Forrest on the witness stand. Asked by Owen why he had exited the bar with a loaded pistol shortly after White had gunned down two individuals, Forrest said he was concerned for the safety of a friend.
That friend, Marquavius Liles, was outside Levels in an adjacent parking lot at the time. Forrest testified that when he saw Tim White heading for the parking lot “I was afraid Marqi was in danger.”
“I was afraid he (White) was going to shoot and kill my friend,” Forrest told jurors. “I had just seen him shoot and kill two people inside the bar, including his own brother, so who knew what he was capable of. I was afraid there was gonna be another shooting and that someone else was gonna die.”
Forrest said he followed White into the parking lot west of the bar.
“I saw movement and it was Tim White down by the walkway (between Alter Ego Comics and the CASA building). Tim was facing me and was raising his gun, so I started shooting,” Forrest told jurors.
Asked by Owen why he discharged his weapon, Forrest replied, “He was about to shoot me. I knew if I didn’t start shooting he was gonna shoot me.”
Owen asked Forrest if be believed he could retreat from the confrontation without getting killed.
“No,” the defendant replied.