DA’s office dismisses murder charge in 2019 shooting death
WACO, Texas (KWTX) - The McLennan County District Attorney’s Office dismissed a murder charge Tuesday against a Waco man who has been jailed more than 1,000 days.
Citing insufficient evidence, prosecutors dropped a murder charge against Leonard Brown, 23, in the December 2019 shooting death of Eric Lavelle Williams outside a Gurley Lane apartment complex.
Brown’s co-defendant, Donald Deshawn Palmer, pleaded guilty to murder in the case in July 2021 and was sentenced to 30 years in prison.
After the murder charge was dismissed Tuesday, Brown pleaded guilty to theft of a firearm, which court records show happened on the say day that Williams was shot. Prosecutors recommended that Brown be sentenced to 24 months in a state jail facility on the weapon theft charge. Judge Susan Kelly of Waco’s 54th State District Court accepted the plea bargain with Brown and sentenced him to the recommended state jail term.
Brown will be given credit for the 1,078 days he spent in the McLennan County Jail while the charges were pending against him. He should be released almost immediately based on the number of days he already has spent in jail, court officials said.
Brown, who was set to stand trial on the murder charge Mar. 14, was indicted for murder in Williams’ death in June 2020. Police said the shooting was drug-related.
McLennan County District Attorney Josh Tetens said in a statement that justice dictated his office drop the murder indictment against Brown.
“After diligent work by Waco PD and investigators in our office, we made the decision to dismiss the murder charge against Mr. Brown,” Tetens said. “While initial investigation led the previous administration to believe Mr. Brown had criminal liability in relation to Mr. Williams’ death, subsequent investigation by our new administration uncovered the truth of the events that led to Mr. Williams’ murder.
“Mr. Brown is being held responsible for stealing the firearm that Mr. Palmer used to kill Mr. Williams, but he has no criminal liability as to his murder. This decision to dismiss reflects my office’s steadfast commitment to prosecuting those who commit crimes in our community, but our job is to seek justice, not convictions, and that is what this resolution reflects,” Tetens said.
According to arrest documents, witnesses told police Brown and Palmer followed Williams back to the apartment complex from a neighboring convenience store. Williams and Brown began to argue and Williams started to walk away. Brown pulled out a pistol, and Williams said, “You have a gun. What are you going to do with that? You going to shoot me?” according to an arrest affidavit.
Williams then got into a car Brown was sitting in, and the two started to fight over the gun. Palmer also was involved, the affidavit states. Two shots were fired during the fight, police said.
Both Brown and Palmer fled the area after the shooting, the affidavit states. Williams’ body was found in the apartment complex parking lot.
Detectives swabbed Brown’s hands for gunshot residue on the day of the shooting. Those test results “were consistent” with someone who fired a weapon, according to the affidavit.
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