NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — 10 On Your Side is continuing to look into this week’s deadly shooting in Newport News outside Menchville High school.
The student body and the victim’s family are still trying to come to grips with death and despair.
Right now, 18-year-old Demari Batten who goes to Warwick High School is charged with second-degree murder in the death of 17-year-old football standout Justice Dunham who went to Woodside High school.
When interviewed by police, Batten suggested he was acting in self-defense.
Until he was arrested, Batten lived with his mother. She was not at the apartment when we stopped by, and she did not return a request for an interview.
We did find his friend DJ Jordan.
“I am really surprised to hear the news of that. He is a really good kid. He is chill. I play games with him when I invite him over,” Jordan said.
Jordan believes his friend must have had a reason to allegedly fire the weapon.
“Oh yeah, self-defense. I know Demari personally. He is a good kid, and he would not go out there and do nothing to change his type of image in any type of way. He works, he has got everything he wanted. He plays the games, stays at his house, stays to himself,” Jordan said.
Evelyn Michener is also Batten’s neighbor.
“He is always by himself when I see him playing with his dog. [So hearing he’s been charged with second-degree murder] it breaks my heart. It breaks my heart. I do not know what is coming to this world today,” she said.
Batten gave the police information about the shooting, which 10 On Your Side found in the criminal complaint that he was sitting in the passenger side of his friend’s car, and four or five guys came up:
A police detective wrote: “They attempted to assault him while others were at the driver’s door attempting to enter…and assault him… Demari advised he had a firearm on the floorboard next to his left foot, which he grabbed…He pointed the gun toward the driver side and pulled the trigger, firing one round toward the person at the driver’s side of the vehicle…Batten says he fired to get them away from him”
Batten says he did not know who he shot at that time, according to documents.
We asked Justice’s father, Mike Dunham, whether he sees any scenario where Justice would actually go into the driver’s side of the vehicle, as Batten suggested in court documents.
“I don’t think so, and there’s lot of conflicting information out there,” Dunham said.
Jordan, the friend, stands by a friend,
“It is surprising. I heard they were bullying him, so it doesn’t make me feel any different way. It doesn’t make me change the way I feel about him. He’s a good kid,” Jordan said.
We went to a criminal defense attorney to see what it would take to prove that case.
Well-known defense attorney Don Scott didnot want to discuss the particulars of the case, but we asked him about the self-defense argument.
Scott said of Batten: “I think he is setting the stage for self-defense in this case… I think that is going to be a difficult case for the commonwealth to prove their case, as well as defense who has this case.”
Of the statement Batten gave detectives, Scott responded: “The person who is the perceived victim has to be reasonable in that he anticipates the eminent threat of physical injury or death.”
Batten told investigators he fired one shot, but did not know who he shot.
Scott added: “You have to look at the use of force. Was it proportionate to the threat?”
Justice’s father wonders whether lethal force was necessary.
“Look, it was chaotic… What if Justice knew one of the kids and is trying to pull him off saying ‘Stop come with me’? Who knows what was going on at that second, but no matter what it was not worth any of those losing their life.”
Was the lethal force justified?
“That is a question for a judge or a jury to determine: whether the threat he perceived was the reasonable force under those circumstances, and it is a tough call,” Scott said.
“I don’t think any of it is justified losing your life, no matter what puzzle pieces begin falling in the middle,” Dunham said.
We asked Scott what it means that Batten is charged with second-degree murder and not first.
“Well it sounds like the commonwealth’s attorney does not believe it was done with malice, and malice is one of those things you have to prove for first-degree,” Scott said.
Meanwhile, Batten remains in jail without bond. His preliminary hearing is set for January 20.