Witness: Gamez threatened to kill black people
An hour before he allegedly shot at a group of high school football players, killing one of them, Gabriel James Gamez told two employees at the Outback Steakhouse that he would shoot any black person who said anything to him or his family, according to testimony during his trial Friday.
Gamez, 24, is standing trial in the Durham County Courthouse for first-degree murder in the death of Darrell Turner, an 18-year-old high school student from Pennsylvania who was traveling with a team of all-star football players from the Pittsburgh area.
Turner, his teammates and coaches had stopped for the night and were staying at a hotel near the Interstate 40/U.S. 15-501 interchange as they traveled to Florida. Seven members of the team were walking back to their hotel after eating dinner when the shooting occurred about 10 p.m. on June 23, 2011.
The two female employees were 16 years old and working as hostesses at the Outback Steakhouse on Mt. Moriah Road on the night of the shooting.
They testified that Gamez, who came to the restaurant with his family, approached them and began talking to them. He seemed a little weird because he was wearing sunglasses at night inside the restaurant, and although he looked young, he was using a cane and limping, said hostess Emily Donnell.
"He came up to us and started a conversation about living in Durham, just like casual," Donnell testified.
"He asked me how I enjoyed living in North Carolina," Donnell said. "I said that I loved it."
Gamez told them he was from Texas and in town with his family for his grandmother's funeral, Donnell said.
"He then started saying racist comments about how he couldn't live in North Carolina," she said.
"I couldn't live in North Carolina because of the niggers on their high horses," she quoted Gamez as saying.
Donnell said she walked away briefly but came back because he was continuing to talk to the other hostess, and she looked uncomfortable with the conversation.
"When I walked back he was talking about that if anybody said anything to him or his family he would pull his gun out and shoot them, and he put his hand in his pocket making reference to the fact he had a gun on him," Donnell said.
She did not see a gun but said that was because of the way they were standing.
After that remark, Donnell said she walked away, and Gamez went back and sat with his family.
Also during the conversation, Gamez asked the two teenagers if they wanted to come over to his hotel room after they got off work and hang out with him, Donnell said. They declined.
That night when the restaurant closed, Donnell was assigned to stay late to help clean up. As she was cleaning the windows, she saw Gamez walking around in the parking lot after his family had already left.
Then as she was cleaning a window on the outside of the restaurant, she heard gunshots and she went inside to tell her manager that someone was across the street shooting, she said.
As she walked across the restaurant, she saw someone frantically pounding on the take-out door.
"He was bleeding and immediately started talking about his friend across the street," Donnell said.
Earlier in the trial, Thomas Woodson, one of Turner's teammates, testified that when Gamez showed he had a gun, he and the other players turned and ran away. Woodson, who is black, said he ran to a side door of the Outback restaurant and began pounding on the door, saying someone was shooting. He had been shot in the leg, was bleeding and fell to the ground, he said.
Donnell said she immediately suspected that the man who had been in the restaurant had done the shooting because of what he had said about having a gun and shooting a black person. When police came, she told an officer that she thought she knew who did the shooting and she told him about the man and his comment about having a gun.
When asked to identify the man she saw that night, she pointed at Gamez sitting at the defense table.
Under cross-examination, Attorney Rebecca Wiggins asked her if she told the officer that night about the racial comments, and she said no.
It wasn't until a week or two ago when she was asked to come in to be interviewed in preparation for the trial that she told someone, other than her parents, about the racist comments, she said.
After the two young women testified, several people from the SBI lab in Raleigh took the stand.
A firearms expert said he determined that the three 40-caliber cartridges that were found on the sidewalk at the scene of the shooting had been fired from the black Glock pistol that police recovered from Gamez's hotel room.
His tests on the bullet that was recovered from Turner's body were inconclusive in determining whether that bullet had been fired from the Glock, although it was a 40 caliber bullet.
Earlier in the trial, the football players testified that as they were walking back to their hotel, they passed Gamez who was walking in the opposite direction. They didn't pay any attention as they passed him, but then he began asking loudly about what someone had hit him with.
Some testified that a few of them were eating peanuts after they left the restaurant and were tossing the shells to the ground.
The players testified they were confused about what Gamez was complaining about and they turned around to see what was going on. Turner, who was closest to Gamez, began arguing with him, and they exchanged curse words. Gamez called them niggers, they said.
Then Gamez pulled up his shirt, revealing a gun in his waistband, and they all turned around and ran in the direction they were originally walking.
Turner was shot in the back and fell to the ground and died after the bullet pierced his heart, according to testimony of witnesses during the trial.
Gamez is on trial for first-degree murder, assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill inflicting serious injury for allegedly shooting Woodson in the leg, four counts of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill for shooting at the other players, and five counts of attempted murder for shooting at the players.
The court session ended at 1 p.m. Friday, and the trial is scheduled to resume Monday morning at 10 a.m.