District Attorney Warren Montgomery reports that on September 28, 2023, a Washington Parish jury unanimously found Kelton L. Johnson, Jr., age 23, guilty of Manslaughter. He faces up to 20 years in prison when he is sentenced on October 23, 2023. District Judge Alan A. Zaunbrecher presided over the trial.
In April of 2021, the Bogalusa Police Department received multiple 9-1-1 calls in reference to a shooting in front of the "green store" on Sabine Street in Bogalusa. Officers responded and found the victim, Montrell Quinn of Bogalusa, in the parking lot with multiple gunshot wounds. They found a gun in his back pocket. He was transported to Our Lady of the Angels Hospital in Bogalusa. He had three gunshot wounds, including one to the chest, which caused his death.
Witnesses gave officers a description of the shooter’s vehicle and officers began their search. Within a few minutes, BPD received another 9-1-1 call, this time from Johnson who told officers he would meet them at the police department.
In his police interview, the Johnson stated that he had been flagged down by the victim who then began walking around Johnson's vehicle, imploring him to get out of his vehicle and fight. Johnson said that the victim then went to the trunk of his own car and retrieved a gun. He said that the victim then approached the passenger side of Johnson's vehicle and opened the door. Johnson then admitted that he’d shot the victim, claiming self defense. Johnson also admitted that there had been an adult passenger in the front seat as well as an infant and a toddler in his vehicle at the time of the shooting, but that the passenger had fled shortly after the shooting. Johnson was taken into custody. The gun used by the defendant was recovered from his vehicle.
During their investigation, the police located the passenger, who told police that he’d taken a video with his phone during some of the incident. Police also viewed security camera footage from the store, which showed the entire incident. While interviewing community members, police learned that Johnson and the victim had had an ongoing dispute and that it was known that they wanted to fight.
At trial, the victim’s father testified about his son. Five Bogalusa Police officers testified, three of whom had body-worn camera footage which was played at trial showing the aid rendered to the victim, the recovery of the victim’s firearm as well as the collection of physical evidence. The jury also viewed the video from the store. In the video, the victim can be heard asking Johnson to put his gun down, get out of the car and fight him like a man.
The passenger who was in Johnson's vehicle when the victim was shot, testified he did take cell phone video from inside the vehicle. That video was played for the jury. Johnson could be heard saying “I’ll smoke him with that gun, free kill.” The passenger admitted that he never saw the victim with a gun in his hands. He also admitted that mere weeks after the victim’s death, he changed the ring tone on his cell phone to “Casket Fresh.”
The prosecution called another witness who testified that he had known both the victim and Johnson for approximately 12 years. He testified that the victim’s street name was “T-money.” He said that about an hour before the shooting, Johnson messaged him saying “I’m gonna kill him.” He was unable to say exactly to whom Johnson was referring, but he was unaware of any other person that it could be other than the victim.
The lead detective on the case, who had taken Johnson's statement, testified and the defendant’s video statement was played for the jury. Johnson claimed repeatedly that the victim got out of his car and flagged him down with a gun in his hand. When confronted by the video evidence from the store, he changed his story and said the victim motioned to him prior to exiting his car.
Extraction of phone messages between Johnson and the victim were introduced at trial. The profanity laced messages discussed a plan to meet up at the green store. The victim threatened to “beat the f**k” out of Johnson. Two minutes after the last message and according to the video surveillance, Johnson followed the victim into the green store’s parking spaces. Johnson's phone also revealed a message sent to his girlfriend two days before the shooting where he stated “girl, I’m gonna f**k T-money up.”
In their closing arguments, prosecutors told the jury, “the victim was an aggressor seeking a fistfight, but the defendant was also an aggressor, the moment he displayed his firearm.” “We know the victim saw the gun because he is heard in the video saying “put the gun down.”
Defense claimed that the jury should find Johnson not guilty as his was an act of self-defense.
Prosecutors explained to the jurors, that under the aggressor doctrine, “an aggressor cannot claim self-defense unless he withdraws from the conflict in good faith and in a manner that his adversary knows or should know that he desires to withdraw and discontinue the conflict. Therefore, as an aggressor, the defendant cannot claim self-defense.”
Assistant District Attorneys Jason Cuccia and Doug Freese prosecuted the case. The following Bogalusa Police Department officers and detectives investigated the case: Det. Lt. Casey Hidalgo, Lt. Mitchell Castleberry and Officers Chris McClelland and Dillon Miller (now with the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office.) Ms. Cheryl Swearingen, a firearms expert and Dr. Christy Cunningham, the forensic pathologist, were among the witnesses who testified at the trial.