The criminal trial of Brian Tootle started late Monday and is expected to reach a verdict by Thursday in the Court of Common Pleas. Tootle is facing the possibility of a more than 60-year-sentence in connection with the murder of Nafis Armstead two years ago.
Armstead was shot seven times around 8:30 p.m. on July 27, 2012 on the 200 block of East Sharpnack Street in Mt. Airy. Twenty-three-year-old Armstead was pronounced dead at 8:58 p.m. the same night at Albert Einstein Medical Center.
A second man, 26-year-old Gerald “Geezy” Jones, was shot in the back and on his thigh during the incident. Jones survived the incident and is expected to testify on Wednesday.
Tootle, an East Germantown resident who was 19-years-old at the time of the incident, is charged with murder, conspiracy and three firearm-related crimes. The prosecution has yet to state a motive for the incident but in a previous interview with NewsWorks, Armstead’s family suggested the shooting could have been retaliation about a drug-related conflict and Armstead was not the intended target.
The arresting police officer, Tyrone Broaddus, testified to the court that he saw a green 1993 Mercury Villager minivan, which fit the description of the escape vehicle, at an intersection soon after the shooting.
After following the vehicle for half of a block to Rosemary Lane, he said the minivan stopped at a rear parking lot and two men got out and walked away.
Broaddus said he got his flashlight and followed the driver into a dark area beyond the parking lot where Tootle was standing. He later found a revolver in the grass about 10 feet from Tootle.
Officer Eric Person, who later arrived at the scene on Rosemary Lane, testified that he heard Tootle ask officers just before being put in a police vehicle, “Can I say my last goodbyes to my cousin?”
A Glock semi-automatic pistol with an extended magazine containing Tootle’s fingerprint was found on the floor of the green minivan. A city ballistic specialist added that chemicals found on Tootle’s clothes indicate Tootle was at least close to a gun being fired, or someone who had fired a gun recently.
The commonwealth identified a second suspect in the shootings, Aka “Ike” Jones, who was not found by police the night of the shooting and has not been seen since. Some prosecution witnesses and reports said there was a third shooter who was never identified or found.
Around the scene
Michael Jordan, a former serviceman and resident living on the block at the time, said he heard two different-sounding guns shooting at the time of the incident but didn’t look outside until after they stopped.
Jordan said he went outside as a green minivan sped away and two men lay in the street. Jordan later rode in the back seat of a police cruiser with Gerald Jones until they reached the hospital and Jones was eventually brought into stable condition.
“His eyes were rolling to the back of his head,” Jordan recalled to the court.
Armstead’s mother, Sharon Armstead, provided a brief, and emotional, testimony on Tuesday. She said she was in touch with her son before his murder and had last spoken to him on the phone the Wednesday prior to the shooting.
Sharon Armstead was also present during Monday’s opening statements and was visibly fighting back tears.
The presiding judge, Glenn Bronson, said he expects to hear closing statements by the end of the day on Wednesday so the jury may make a verdict on Thursday.