Attorney: Fatal shooting was justified

A Zachary man accused of fatally shooting a former Clinton High School and Southern University football player last year while they rode in a car on Interstate 110 South was justified, his attorney told a jury Tuesday.

The driver of the red Ford Mustang and a third passenger are expected to testify Wednesday when the second-degree murder trial of Walter Jerome Fort, 24, resumes in state District Judge Tony Marabella’s courtroom.

“They (the driver and passenger) are lying because they are trying to cover up their actions that led to the shooting — a shooting that was justified,” said Tommy Damico, who represents Fort, to jurors in his opening statement. “Walter Fort’s actions will be proven to be justified.”

Damico declined during a break in the trial to elaborate on his justification argument.

East Baton Rouge Parish Assistant District Attorney Kory Tauzin argued in his opening remarks to the jury that Fort, who was buddies with Silas Roderick Gibbs, was in the back seat of the Mustang in the pre-dawn hours of March 3, 2012, when he shot Gibbs in the front passenger seat.

“Out of the blue, Walter Fort takes out his gun and fires — boom, boom, boom, boom — into the head of Walter Fort,” Tauzin bellowed, referring to the four bullet casings found inside the car.

Baton Rouge police homicide Detective Belford Johnson testified Tuesday that a pistol reportedly thrown from the car was found under I-110 near the Chippewa Street exit, where the shooting occurred. The gun had blood on it, he said.

Willie Collins, the first police officer to arrive on the scene, testified he found Gibbs slumped over in the front passenger seat, still wearing his seatbelt.

The keys were in the ignition, the lights were on, and music was playing, he said. The car was in the right lane just past the Chippewa exit.

Fort was arrested two days after the shooting in Houston. He was located on the campus of Texas Southern University.

Fort initially gave a campus police officer a fake name, Baton Rouge police have said.

A star running back at Clinton High School, Gibbs was named to The Advocate’s All-Metro football team and was the offensive Most Valuable Player in his district in 2006 and 2007, his junior and senior years.

As a high school senior, he ran for 1,619 yards and 27 touchdowns on 217 carries, helping Clinton to the Class 2A semifinals.

Gibbs, 24, of Baker, ran for 277 yards for Southern in 2008 but was academically ineligible in 2009 — the year his father died — before leaving the team in 2010.

Fort faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison if convicted as charged.