URBANA — A Champaign man tied to the crossfire shooting death of an innocent bystander last summer told police that the gun found in his waistband minutes after her shooting was one he had found in the neighborhood.
Anthony Meads, 21, said he also found a shotgun in the same Garden Hills neighborhood where Desirae Austin, 20, was shot to death on July 4, 2012.
A Champaign County jury trying Meads for the first-degree murder of Mrs. Austin on Wednesday heard a portion of Meads' recorded statement that he gave to a police detective the day after the shooting. Meads did not testify at his trial.
Testimony has shown that Mrs. Austin was one of several people gathering at the intersection of Thornton Drive and Cruising Lane in northwest Champaign after the fireworks display near Parkland College. Police were called to that intersection at 10:24 p.m. for a report of a woman down.
Morris testified that Meads and co-defendant Treshaun Jake, 19, of Danville came to the attention of police responding to the shooting when they were found in a driveway at 1607 Cruising Lane. There, police found more than a dozen spent .45-caliber shell casings. The home belongs to the mother of a friend of Meads.
Morris said Meads never told him who shot Mrs. Austin but gave him the nicknames of three men he believed to be involved. Morris testified he interviewed 22 people and never found any of those men or anyone who even knew people by those nicknames.
The detective said Meads explained to him that "tensions were high in the neighborhood and people were acting stupidly."
There was an ongoing conflict between members of the Gangster Disciples and the Black Peace Stones gangs, Meads said, and the Gangster Disciples had pushed the Pea Stones out of the neighborhood to the west by shooting at them that night.
Morris said Meads denied that he and Jake were members of the Gangster Disciples but admitted being affiliated with them.
Morris said Meads told him that another man had entered the yard at 1607 Cruising Lane and was shooting at them. Meads said he clubbed the man with a branch and put the shotgun that the man had in the trunk of his own car. Police later recovered it.
Meads said he fell in behind Gangster Disciple members as they pushed the Pea Stones to the west and while doing that, heard someone say that a woman had been shot.
Meads claimed he found the loaded .45-caliber gun which police later took from his waistband on the ground in the 1600 block of Cruising Lane.
In earlier testimony, other witnesses said that Jake fired the handgun at Johnnie Campbell, 21, and his brother, Rajon Campbell, 23, when Mrs. Austin went down.
Johnnie Campbell said Jake confronted him over an argument that Campbell had with his own girlfriend.
Witness Tiffany Dishman said she was standing over Mrs. Austin calling for help when Meads ran up to her holding a shotgun asking where the Campbells had gone.
A state crime lab analyst said the projectile taken from Mrs. Austin's body and another dug out of the vehicle that the Campbell brothers hid behind as the bullets were flying came from the handgun that Meads had in his waistband. Several of the spent shell casings found in the driveway where Meads and Jake were also came from that gun.
The lawyers were expected to make their final arguments Thursday morning.