DECATUR — Police arrested two teen males Tuesday for allegedly shooting to death 21-year-old Jarvas Thomas in a botched marijuana sale.
A witness who was with Thomas at the time of the shooting said 16-year-old Bryson Harden was the shooter and noted that a second male, who was later identified as Patrick A. Hutton, 17, accompanied Harden.
When interviewed by police, both suspects claimed the other was the shooter in the incident.
Hutton was arrested at 3 p.m. Tuesday, after police investigation showed he had called Thomas from his cellphone prior to Thomas’ death Monday night.
A witness to Thomas’ murder told police he was with the victim when he was shot and said that earlier in the evening, Thomas had received phone calls from someone wanting to purchase marijuana.
“Thomas and the witness then drove to Galloway Park to deliver (1 ounce of) cannabis to the caller,” according to a sworn statement by Decatur police detective Jim Atkinson.
The witness said that upon arriving at the park, he and Thomas were approached by a biracial male, who was later identified as Hutton, and a white male, who was later identified as Harden.
The witness said Harden asked Thomas if he had the marijuana, and Thomas replied that he did. Harden then asked Thomas if he had all of it, and Thomas again affirmed that he did.
“At this point, the witness indicated the white male shot Thomas in the head,” Atkinson wrote. The witness then ran from the scene.
The witness also told police that Thomas had the ounce of marijuana and two cellphones when he was shot. Police determined that one cellphone and the marijuana were missing from Thomas when they found him dead in a vehicle at 11:01 p.m. Monday near a pavilion in Galloway Park.
Thomas died from a single gunshot wound to the left side of his head, according to an autopsy conducted Tuesday at the McLean County Morgue. He was pronounced dead at the scene at 1:10 a.m. Tuesday by a deputy Macon County coroner.
Police were alerted to the shooting shortly after the witness, who was a passenger in the car Thomas was driving, reportedly fled to a convenience store and called 911, according to nearby residents.
During an interview with Hutton, police said the 17-year-old initially denied any knowledge of the shooting incident but later said he had been with Harden.
Hutton said Harden called Thomas using Hutton’s cellphone and arranged a meeting with him at Galloway Park to buy marijuana. Hutton said he then went to the park with Harden.
Hutton stated that when Thomas arrived, Harden approached the vehicle to conduct the transaction and subsequently shot Thomas in the head.
Hutton then ran from the park to his residence. He later told police “he did not know Harden was going to shoot Thomas.”
During an interview with Harden, who was located by police later Tuesday night, police said the 16-year-old admitted he set up the meeting between Thomas, Hutton and himself from Hutton’s cellphone but claimed Hutton was the one who shot Thomas and then took the marijuana from the victim.
An additional witness, who was reportedly with Harden and Hutton on Monday prior to the robbery and shooting, told police Harden had a gun at that time.
Atkinson noted that the same witness was with Harden after the murder.
“(The witness) stated that Harden told him he (Harden) ‘had to do it’ and the victim wouldn’t give up the money,” he wrote.
The witness said he also saw Harden with an ounce of marijuana, “the same quantity Harden had ordered.”
Hutton and Harden are in custody. Macon County State’s Attorney Jay Scott said he expects Hutton to be formally charged this morning and Harden possibly later this week.
Thomas’ shooting death was the second in two days in Decatur, the city’s fifth and sixth shootings of 2012.
Isaiah O. Wiley, 21, was the victim Sunday in the 400 block of East Waggoner Street. A suspect in that case is still at large.