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Robbery suspect on trial

By Tyler H. Jones

tjones@civitasmedia.com

Prosecutor Jep Bendinger points to a schematic of the Harwell Avenue home where a robbery allegedly happened in May 2014 during a trial in Troup County Superior Court on Tuesday.
http://lagrangenews.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/web1_WEB0901Trial03.jpgProsecutor Jep Bendinger points to a schematic of the Harwell Avenue home where a robbery allegedly happened in May 2014 during a trial in Troup County Superior Court on Tuesday. Tyler H. Jones | Daily News
Robbery suspect Quint Tucker of LaGrange, left, speaks with his Newnan-based attorney, David Taylor, on Tuesday during a trial in Troup County Superior Court. Tucker and several other men allegedly burst into a home on Harwell Avenue, shot a man there and stole drugs and a few dollars in May 2014.
http://lagrangenews.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/web1_WEB0901Trial02.jpgRobbery suspect Quint Tucker of LaGrange, left, speaks with his Newnan-based attorney, David Taylor, on Tuesday during a trial in Troup County Superior Court. Tucker and several other men allegedly burst into a home on Harwell Avenue, shot a man there and stole drugs and a few dollars in May 2014. Tyler H. Jones | Daily News
LaGrange Police Sgt. Robert Kirby is sworn in before his testimony during a robbery trial Tuesday in Troup County Superior Court.
http://lagrangenews.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/web1_WEB0901Trial01.jpgLaGrange Police Sgt. Robert Kirby is sworn in before his testimony during a robbery trial Tuesday in Troup County Superior Court. Tyler H. Jones | Daily News

LaGRANGE — No one is disputing the fact that Jimmy Dean, 32, sold marijuana from his Harwell Avenue home in May 2014. On the witness stand Tuesday in Troup County Superior Court, he admitted it. But Dean isn’t the one on trial, Quint Tucker of LaGrange is.

Prosecutors and police allege Tucker went to Dean’s home on a mid-May evening to pick up some pot. No one’s really disputing that, either, but what happened in the 5-or-so minutes that followed has been at the center of a year-long investigation and now an armed robbery and aggravated assault trial that could send Tucker to prison for 70 years.

Jep Bendinger, an assistant district attorney who is prosecuting Tucker, told jurors during his opening statement that after Tucker picked up the pot from Dean, he left the house and later came back with three or four masked men — one of which had a shotgun. They knocked on the door and when Dean opened it, they barged their way in, Bendinger said. As Dean tried to flee and run to the rear of the home, the gunman fired a single shot at Dean, striking his arm, causing severe injuries, Bendinger said.

On the witness stand, Dean testified that he played opossum on the floor of a hallway as the men snatched two bags of pot and a few dollars from him. Dean’s girlfriend, whom he’s since married, was at home in the shower when the men entered, he said. They pried their way into the bathroom and pointed the gun at her, too, he said. She escaped unharmed.

“Let’s go, let’s go, they’re coming,” Dean said he heard Tucker saying to the other men before they ducked out of the house and ran down Harwell Avenue to a waiting car.

Tucker’s attorney had a different story.

Newnan-based defense lawyer David Taylor told jurors that Tucker had been in the “wrong place at the wrong time,” and that he had nothing to do with the masked men. After all, Tucker wasn’t even wearing a mask; Dean testified to that fact. Also, he wasn’t the one with the gun.

Tucker sat in a chair at the defense table nodding his head as Taylor noted that Dean and Tucker had known each other for years and were friends.

The state also has to prove Tucker’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, Taylor reminded the jury.

In any case, after Dean was shot, his girlfriend frantically called 911 — a tape that was played for jurors. A 911 dispatcher tells her several times, “ma’am, I need you to calm down, I need you to breathe. Is someone shot? I need you to calm down.”

LaGrange police officer William Nelson was the first to arrive at the home and found Dean sitting on a plastic chair on the small front porch. Video and audio recorded from Nelson’s police car show him walking up to Dean on the porch. Bendinger said Nelson may have saved Dean’s life — trained in emergency medicine, Nelson used a dish towel to wrap a tourniquet around what he called “the most grotesque gunshot wounds I’ve ever seen … it looked like hamburger meat.”

An ambulance arrived a short time later, along with other officers and a firetruck, and took Dean for medical attention. He was eventually flown by helicopter to an Atlanta hospital.

While all of this was happening, LaGrange police officer Garrett Presley spotted a blue Ford Mustang fitting the description of the alleged getaway car near Commerce Avenue, Bendinger said. He initiated a felony traffic stop — the kind where police call for back-up units and use a bullhorn to command the car’s occupants to get out of the vehicle and onto the ground.

Tucker and another man were arrested at the scene. Inside the car, police found two bags of marijuana and a few dollars, Bendinger told jurors.

The trial continues today as the prosecution continues to make its case. After the state rests, Tucker’s attorney, Taylor, will have the opportunity to lay out his version of May 15, 2014, and call witnesses.

Retired Superior Court Judge Allen Keeble is presiding over the trial in place of Judge John Simpson.

Read LaGrange Daily News online and in print for updates as this trial continues.

Tyler H. Jones is a reporter at LaGrange Daily News. He may be reached at 706-884-7311, ext. 2155.