Day three of testimony in Granger trial
Day three of Bartholomew Granger’s capital murder trial ended after more than 14 family members, Beaumont police officers, attorneys and employees at a local business testified they were caught up in Granger’s scheme to kill Claudia Jackson, Samantha Jackson and Rebecca Richards.
All three women survived the shooting, despite what police and prosecutors say were Granger’s best efforts to end the sexual assault trial in which Rebecca was set to testify against Granger.
Attorney David Diez said Wednesday, April 24, he was parked near Granger’s vehicle and was entering the courtroom when he saw a gunman open fire in the streets of Beaumont.
“I looked toward the sound, directly across the street, and I saw what appeared to be a middle aged black man firing at a girl,” he said.
Previous witnesses testified Granger said nothing as he approached his daughter, Samantha Jackson, in the middle of Milam Street and shot at her multiple times.
“She had her hands up and she was twisting like she was being hit repeatedly,” Diez said.
Troy Soileau said he was at the courthouse doors near the smoking area when the shooting began. Soileau testified he saw Granger fire a volley of bullets into the courthouse doors as his other alleged targets, Claudia Jackson and Rebecca Richards, tried to flee to safety.
As bullets whizzed by, shattering the courthouse glass, Soileau testified he hid behind a pillar and yelled for those in the area to take cover.
“I was screaming,” he said. “I was talking, telling people to hide. Get inside.”
Standing close enough to the courthouse revolving doors, Soileau said he saw Minnie Sebolt cut down by gun fire and later die.
“Did her eyes meet your eyes?” Prosecutor Pat Knauth asked.
“They did,” Soileau said.
“Did she respond to you?” Knauth asked.
“She didn’t,” Soileau answered.
Both Soileau and Diez testified they ran to Samantha Jackson’s aid in the moments after the shooting. Despite being shot and run over by Granger’s truck, they said she was responsive.
“I asked her if she was a Christian,” Soileau said, describing his best attempts to comfort the severely wounded Jackson.
“We prayed, as best we could,” he said.
Samantha Jackson was in a coma for months as a result of her injuries, but nonetheless testified against Granger, who she said methodically opened fire on her on March 14, 2012.
After opening fire in front of the courthouse, Beaumont police testified Granger made his way to RCI, a fabrication and pipe fitting company blocks away from the courthouse.
“He came in and said something like he was gonna kill everybody, and that’s when I realized I had a problem bigger than the one I had on my desk,” said Edwin Hoag, who was working at the time.
Two other co-workers testified Granger used their cell phones to phone friends and family, and said Granger was bragging about his crime spree.
RCI employee Steve Nash said Granger, bleeding and passing in and out of consciousness, presented him an opportunity to end the bloodshed.
“When he closed his eyes the third time, that’s when I did what I had to do,” Nash said.
Nash testified he gave Granger a swift and vicious kick to his testicles and wrestled the assault weapon from his grasp.
“When we got close to the door, we heard, ‘Come in! Come in! Somebody’s got him!’” said BPD SWAT Team Leader Scott Apple.
Granger was soon placed into custody and was treated for at least three gunshot wounds, police said.
“We placed him in some flex cuffs and called an ambulance,” Apple said.
Other BPD officers who guarded Granger’s hospital room testified Granger made incriminating statements, showing no remorse while recovering from his non-life-threatening wounds.
Officers testified Granger said he would rather enter prison as a murderer than a rapist.
Det. Frank Coffin, a hostage negotiator testified Granger said “It’s good to go to jail for something that’s worth it.”
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With the second day of testimony in the capital murder trial of accused courthouse shooter Bartholomew Granger under their belts, prosecutors said Tuesday, April 23, that Wednesday's witnesses will include Samantha Jackson, Granger's daughter who was run over by her father's vehicle during the March 2012 shooting that almost killed her.
Granger pleaded not guilty to capital murder Monday, April 23, in Galveston and his defense gave no opening statements. If convicted, Granger will likely receive the death penalty.
The trial was moved to a Galveston courthouse, mostly to avoid jurors having to walk by the very place where prosecutors say Granger gunned down Minnie Sebolt, a 79-year-old bystander who was hit by a hail of gunfire on the morning of March 14, 2012. The Jefferson County Commissioners Court unanimously approved a budget amendment at its meeting Monday, April 22, allowing $40,000 from the contingency fund to be used for the change in venue for the trial.
With Judge Bob Wortham presiding over Granger's trial in Galveston, Prosecutor Ed Shettle gave the state’s opening statements, saying Granger’s crime was premeditated and cold-blooded.
“He set out in his pickup truck and laid in wait for hours, waited for the people who he thought betrayed him,” Shettle said of Granger’s supposed targets, Claudia and Samantha Jackson, Grangers’s ex-wife and daughter, who had testified against him in a sexual assault case the day before.
“This was calculated,” Shettle said.
The chief prosecutor in the case went on to say Granger didn’t stop there. Subsequent video of the incident show’s Granger’s Chevy pickup tearing through the courthouse parking lot before it met his wounded daughter, Samantha, who was sitting in the street.
“He didn’t just straddle her,” Shettle said, describing Granger’s apparent attempt to kill his daughter with his vehicle. “He ran over her with both tires.”
The state’s first witness was Judge John Stevens, who was hearing Granger’s sexual assault case. Stevens described the chaos that ensued about 11 a.m. on that fateful day. Other witnesses included crime lab scientists, investigators with the Texas Rangers, Texas Department of Public Safety and the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office, and Chelle Warrick, who was working for Granger’s defense attorney at the time.
Warrick testified Granger had called her on the morning of the March 2012 shooting and was emotional, saying he was angered by his daughter and ex-wife’s testimony in Stevens’ court the day before.
“He was crying hysterically when he first called me,” Warrick testified.
Warrick said Granger had some choice words for Judge Stevens that day.
Warrick said Granger told her Judge Stevens “is allowing them to (purger) themselves in front of the court.”
Warrick testified she did her best to assuage Granger at the time.
“He told me he would take care of it tomorrow,” she said.
The next day, prosecutors said Granger waited in the parking lot of the Jefferson County Courthouse, arriving at 7:20 and re-parking his silver Chevy pickup at least three times before opening fire around 11:20 a.m.
Beaumont Police Department’s Chief Jimmy Singletary was the last witness to take the stand Monday, saying he and his officers were just finishing up a shift change at the police station adjacent to the courthouse. Singletary testified he and other officers heard the shots and ran toward the courthouse. After crossing the railroad tracks, Singletary is seen on video taking cover behind a railroad crossing sign, not firing his weapon to avoid crossfire as other officers repeatedly opened fire on Granger’s fleeing vehicle.
Moments later, Singletary testified he was locking down the scene at RCI, a small business where prosecutors say Granger held multiple hostages, if only for a little while.
“One brave man who had the opportunity took the opportunity and kicked the snot out of (Granger),” Shettle testified.
Prosecutors said Tuesday’s testimony will include other investigators and first responders who tended to the wounded moments after the shooting took place. Assistant District Attorney Pat Knauth said tomorrow’s witnesses will also include a friend of Minnie Sebolt who was at the scene and Rebekah Richard, Granger’s wife.
Moments after his testimony, Chief Singletary looked out of the long windows of the Galveston County Courthouse at the water below. Having relived one of Jefferson County’s most high-profile shootings while on the stand, Singletary breathed an emotional sigh of relief.
“It’s hard to imagine it was only a year ago,” he said.
Prosecutors called ten witnesses Tuesday, April 23, most of whom were BPD and Jefferson County Sheriff's officers who fired a barrage of shots at Granger's vehicle, disabling it on that fateful March 2012 day.
William Anderson, a 64-year-old United States Marine from Beaumont, also testified, saying he was parked behind Granger who was waiting in front of the courthouse for hours. Anderson became emotional momentarily as he recalled Granger's apparent dedication to killing his daughter, ex-wife and his current wife after they testified against him in a sexual assault case.
After watching Granger acting suspiciously for hours, Anderson said Granger began shooting as the three women walked into the court room.
"He opened the door completely... and pulled out a rifle," he said.
Sitting in his vehicle only a few feet from Granger as he stood in the street firing at the courthouse, Anderson said he wished he had done more to prevent the death of Minnie Sebolt.
"I was scared to death," Anderson said.
Other witnesses included Leslie King, a bystander who was shot in the hand and Rebecca Richards, Granger's current wife who was to testify against him on the day of the March 2012 shooting.
"He just ran across and started holding the gun up and he just started shooting," Richards said of that fateful day.
Richards, Claudia Jackson and Samantha Jackson fled, but Samantha and Claudia were cut down by gun fire, according to police.
"When I seen him with the gun, we all just really broke out running," she said.
Granger's defense rarely cross-examined Monday's and Tuesday's witnesses and allowed video footage of Granger's vehicle running over Samantha Jackson, footage taken from Officer James Robichaux's police cruiser in the moments after the shooting.
After following Granger's disabled vehicle for a few hundred feet, Robichaux is seen pulling over as he said Granger pointed his assault rifle at him from Granger's open window.
"That round would've gone right through the vehicle and it could've killed me," Robichaux said
Perhaps the most disturbing testimony was that of Vickie Hollingsworth, a friend of Minnie Sebolt's who was standing next to the 79-year-old when she was hit by a hail of bullets.
Rarely did Hollingsworth take her eyes off Granger during her testimony, until she was asked to identify Sebolt's body in pictures by prosecutors. Hollingsworth cried loudly as a few jurors were also overcome with emotion at the sight of Hollingsworth's anguish.
Hollingsworth testified Sebolt was there to help Hollingsworth get VA benefits after her husband's death.
"She just loved to help people," Hollingsworth said.