CANTON ‒ The attorney defending a man accused of a fatal shooting in the hallway of an apartment complex is asking the jury to rule his client acted in self-defense during a struggle that involved a gun.
Ty Graham told the Stark County Common Pleas Court jury that injuries suffered by Adrian Armstead on Feb. 14 are consistent with this explanation. He asked the jury to find his client Roscoe L. Alford, 38, not guilty of murder and felonious assault.
He and prosecutors laid out their case in Alford’s trial, which started with opening statements Tuesday morning before Judge Frank G. Forchione.
The prosecution’s case against Roscoe Alford
Stark County Assistant Prosecutor Kristen Mlinar gave jurors this account of what happened after the 33-year Canton man was shot at 4 a.m. at 1209 Eighth St. NE:
Arriving police focused their attention on an apartment at 1209 Eighth St. NE, near the spot in the hall where Armstead lay dying. They were told the suspect had left for another unit in the same complex at 1223 Eighth St. They were given a description of the suspect: A bearded Black male with dreadlocks, boots and Carhartts.
Officers went to the apartment at 1223 Eighth St., where the resident was not forthcoming and denied police entry. She said she was just there with her kids.
The owner of apartment let in the police, who found Alford under a mound of clothes.
Police returned to the apartment that was the subject of their initial interest, which had been identified by a neighbor who called 911 after hearing gunshots. There, police talked to Brittany N. Reeves, the defendant’s girlfriend. She denied knowing him.
“She doesn’t know anything about any shooting,” Mlinar said. “She wasn’t anywhere around.”
But she gave police access to her phone. They took a break from questioning to look at it.
“At 4:21, she sends a text to a man she says she doesn’t know,” Mlinar said. “In her phone is this ‘Ross my king’ and it says, ‘Hold on baby. The cops here but they have no evidence or nothin. They found one case that was behind him and that’s it. I picked up like four, got rid of them. The police still here.'”
Police searched the apartment, finding shell casings, bullets and the murder weapon, according to Mlinar.
“The defendant’s DNA is on that weapon. The defendant’s fingerprints are on that weapon,” she said.
The prosecutor said police listened to recorded calls made by Alford to his friends and family.
“And he talks about how he killed Adrian Armstead. He seems somewhat shocked that that’s the person he is now,” she said, adding that in one instance he said, “I can’t believe I did that.”
Roscoe Alford’s murder defense
Defense attorney Graham said Armstead and Alford met through a ride service Armstead provided. Alford, his family and friends used Armstead’s transportation service regularly over a couple of weeks before the shooting.
“It appears by all accounts that there was a relationship that was built between the two of them to the degree that Adrian and Roscoe would actually see each other on a daily basis for a matter of a week-plus, approximately,” Graham said. “They spent time together. They watched basketball games together. They truly began a friendship over a short period of time.”
On Feb. 14, Alford and Armstead and others were in Alford’s apartment watching a basketball game. Others were present, including an uncle of Alford’s.
“During this time there appeared to be some tension,” Graham said.
He said Armstead became very upset during the evening, focusing his attention on the uncle, who eventually asked Armstead for a ride home.
They went into the hallway, and Armstead attacked the uncle, according to Graham.
“There was a discussion had, but it was broken up,” Graham said. “And Adrian was told that, ‘Look, you’ve got to go home. You can’t come back. This is unaccptable.'”
According to Graham’s account, the uncle then went to a neighboring apartment, where Armstead knocked on the door and asked to retrieve his car keys and hooded sweatshirt. On the same evening, Armstead returned to Alford’s apartment.
“There’s an altercation that occurs in the hallway and ultimately there’s a struggle over a firearm,” Graham said. “As the evidence is presented, you’re going to see that the shots, the bullet wounds are consistent with a struggle.”
He said the jury will be told that Alford removed himself from the situation after shooting, Graham said.
“I expect the testimony that you hear is going to suggest that he was scared. He was scared of having to face you, as a jury. He was scared of what was to come from the altercation that had occurred.”
Roscoe Alford trial witnesses
Prosecution witnesses called Tuesday included the neighbor who called 911 and police officer Aminata N’Diaye.
Neighbor Stephanie Jackson said that Armstead was found in the hall outside her apartment, with his head closest to her apartment and his feet by the next unit, where Alford lived.
Under cross-examination from Graham, N’Diaye said she did not see any bullets being fired.
Charges: Canton man facing murder charge in shooting death of Adrian Armstead; 3 others charged
Related case: Canton woman admits obstructing justice in shooting death of Adrian Armstead
More witnesses were expected to be called on Wednesday,
In a filing with the court, Graham indicated he may call Reeves as a witness. Reeves, 34, is serving a three-year prison sentence for evidence tampering and obstruction of justice.
Another city woman has pleaded guilty to obstructing justice for lying about Alford’s whereabouts, lying about her identity and fleeing when officers entered the residence to arrest Alford. She was sent to the Stark Regional Community Corrections facility and placed on probation for three years.
Reach Nancy at 330-580-8382 or [email protected].
On Twitter: @nmolnarTR
This article originally appeared on The Repository: Rosoe Alford on trial for murder, accused of shooting Adrian Armstead