Bar Shooter To Stand Trial; Defense Suggests Self-defense
NANTICOKE — In the time leading up to his death, shooting victim Tierees Owens repeatedly threatened his alleged killer and came charging back at him after being kicked out of a Plymouth bar, state troopers testified at a preliminary hearing Friday.
Nevertheless, a magistrate ordered Kyon Dane McDonald, 34, of Plymouth, to stand trial on an open count of criminal homicide for emptying the seven-round magazine of a Taurus 9mm pistol into Owens chest outside Robby Nick’s Sports Bar at 177 E. Main St., Plymouth, on Sept. 27.
During the hearing Friday, Trooper Edward Urban revealed that Owens — a reputed member of the Crips street gang — and an unknown group of his associates had been causing trouble at the bar leading up to the deadly confrontation.
“They were obnoxious,” Urban said during questioning by Assistant District Attorney Michelle Hardik. “They were rowdy. They were causing problems.”
Among the problems was Owens, 33, of Plymouth, had threatned to kill McDonald on multiple occasions, he said. The trooper acknowledged under cross-examination that there was no evidence that McDonald had done anything to provoke Owens, who was reported to have been in possession of a knife earlier in the night.
“There’s no question that Mr. Owens and his friends were being disruptive in the bar,” Urban said. “I think he definitely was a problem that night.”
Owens was so much a problem that a bartender had Owens removed at least once earlier in the evening to get him to calm down, and moments before the shooting bar owner Robert Nicoletti Jr. was escorting Owens away from the premises “like a bouncer,” Urban said.
The shooting took place when Owens broke free from Nicoletti’s grasp and began running back toward McDonald, he said. Surveillance video shows McDonald fired one shot followed by a momentary pause, he said.
Owens went down, and then McDonald emptied the rest of the clip, he said.
“It’s a shot then a step, then boom, boom, boom boom,” Urban said.
Trooper Lisa Brogan testified that Owens’ advance ended after the first shot, and that it was then McDonald who advanced on Owens to empty the clip in an execution-style shooting.
Defense attorney Theron Solomon questioned the troopers about Owens’ mysterious associates, noting that investigators still don’t know who they are or whether they were armed during the confrontation.
He argued for the judge to limit the open count of criminal homicide McDonald is facing to eliminate murder charges, so that the case could proceed on manslaughter counts alone.
“I didn’t hear a single bit of evidence about malice, premeditation,” Solomon said. “The evidence is clear: Mr. Owens is the one who provoked this, not Mr. McDonald.”
Without hearing argument from the prosecution, Magisterial District Judge Donald L. Whittaker bound over the open count of criminal homicide to county court for trial.
McDonald was remanded to the Luzerne County Correctional Facility, where he is being held without bail.