Davontae Mesa wanted to get back at the man he said stole from him, one of his friends told a Yakima County Superior Court jury.
Mesa, Benjamin Newman told jurors, wanted to grab Cameron Helland’s stash of marijuana and walk off without paying for the drugs.
Newman said Helland, 19, carried a pistol that he had flashed at them before. And another witness said that a shoving match between Helland and Mesa ended with Helland drawing his gun.
“There was a chance he could use it in that situation, but over marijuana, I did not think he would use it,” Newman testified. “There was some doubt. Was it worth it to take someone’s weed for $60?”
Both county prosecutors and Helland’s defense attorneys say Helland fatally shot the 16-year-old during a dispute inside Helland’s car. Helland’s attorneys have argued that it was an act of self-defense during an attack, while prosecutors have called it murder.
Helland is charged with second-degree murder in Mesa’s death Nov. 23, 2018.
Newman described how he, Mesa and two others spent the day after Thanksgiving driving around the West Valley area smoking marijuana, snorting counterfeit Percocet pills and drinking beer. Mesa, who alleged that Helland had taken his vape pen and other items, suggested grabbing Helland’s marijuana to get back at him.
Newman said there wasn’t a plan to rob Helland, but Mesa said they should “have his back” if there was a fight.
Helland met the group at West Valley Community Park, pulling up next to the SUV Newman was driving, Newman testified. Mesa got in Helland’s car, in the seat behind Helland while another person, Aaron Updyke, got in the front passenger seat of Helland’s car, Newman said.
Then, Newman said he noticed Helland’s Pontiac shake, and Newman’s remaining passenger, Gage Reed, got out just as shots were fired.
Reed testified he got out and opened the door for Mesa as Helland shot him. Reed said he ran for cover to another part of the parking lot.
Newman called 911 just after Helland drove off, but he said he “lied” by telling the dispatcher that they had just found someone shot in the park.
“Why did you lie?” Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Jared Boswell asked him.
“I think Gage and Aaron were in my ear saying don’t tell them what happened,” Newman said. “Speaking for myself, I didn’t want to be a snitch.”
He explained that he feared he would be targeted by Helland or others if he told the truth at that point.
“That was not your best moment,” defense attorney Ulvar Klein told Newman after replaying the 911 call as part of his cross-examination.
Reed, who testified earlier in the day, said he tried to help Mesa after the shooting, but Newman said none of them did anything to assist Mesa as he lay on the ground. He said he didn’t follow the dispatcher’s instructions to perform CPR because he didn’t want to further injure Mesa.
Reed also said that Updyke told him not to tell police that Updyke was in Helland’s car at the time of the shooting.
Defense attorney Robin Emmans questioned Reed about why he lied about that and maintained that same position for months.
“Doesn’t the truth seem more important than whatever Aaron’s agenda was? This is a murder investigation,” Emmans said.
Reed had also said he saw Mesa and Helland shove each other, with Helland then drawing his pistol, a fact Emmans said Reed never shared with police in the investigation.
The case before Judge Kevin Naught is expected to conclude this week.