Witnesses: Clash led to killings

A dirty look between two cliques of girls at a house party had deadly consequences.

Witnesses testified Wednesday that 19-year-old Chris Luscombe and 18-year-old David Miramontes were fatally shot after the clash between the girls spiraled out of control.

Witnesses said the dirty look led to several brawls at a June house party. Even after the fight ended, the two groups taunted each other by telephone and used a telephone text message to convey a death threat.

The fight escalated until the groups converged on Bob Baskin Park in the early hours of June 8. Authorities accuse 21-year-old Jessie James Cole of carrying out a drive-by shooting that killed Miramontes and Luscombe. Miramontes died at the scene. Luscombe lingered for 18 days before dying at University Medical Center.

Cole faces multiple felony charges, including two counts of murder with a deadly weapon.

He appeared in Las Vegas Justice Court on Tuesday and Wednesday for a preliminary hearing that ended late Wednesday without a decision. The parties are set to meet Tuesday to select a date to continue the hearing.

When the hearing is concluded, Las Vegas Justice of the Peace Karen Bennett-Haron will decide whether enough evidence exists to send the case to District Court.

On one side of the courtroom, dozens of friends and relatives of Miramontes and Luscombe listened to testimony and often wept when either victim was mentioned. A handful of Cole’s supporters and relatives sat on the other side of the courtroom and also became emotional at times.

During one incident outside the courtroom, Luscombe’s relatives accused Cole’s family of threatening them. Court security was called to restore order, and Bennett-Haron told both sides to calm down.

Luscombe, known as “Superman,” was a former Clark High School linebacker who dreamed of going into the NFL. He was the 2007 prom king and could bench press 400 pounds.

Miramontes was known within his circle as a gentle giant. He stood 6 feet 7 inches tall and weighed 230 pounds. He was meticulous about his looks and worked hard to save money for a $2,500 collection of size 13 and 14 shoes.

On Wednesday, 18-year-old T’Mir Boyd testified that she and her roommates planned a party June 7 to celebrate high school graduation. Alcohol was served, and people were charged a $5 entry fee. During the party, she said several girls were giving “evil stares” to another group of girls that included her friends.

The groups went outside, and a fight erupted. Boyd testified that she hit a girl in the face and said one of her friends broke a wrist. Several men at the party also started fighting, One, Thomas Strawn, said another man struck him in the face with a lacrosse stick.

The fight broke up after several gunshots were fired into the air. Authorities think the shots were fired by Cole.

But the conflict didn’t end. The parties scattered and exchanged threats by telephone. Boyd said she and others phoned the other group and told them, “You’re all done.” She also testified that she received a text message from someone that night that said: “Ha ha. (Expletive) you all. You guys are all dead.”

Word spread that the groups were going to fight at Bob Baskin Park, on Oakey Boulevard near Rancho Drive. Several dozen people went to the park.

Robert Yeckel, a friend of Miramontes, testified that he went to the park about 2:30 a.m. to meet girls, including those in the group that were involved in the fight. He drove to the park in his Volkswagen Jetta with several other men. Miramontes, who was in a vehicle accident several weeks before the shooting and needed a walker to help him get around, showed up later, Yeckel said.

Yeckel said he believed something was wrong after a car drove past the park slowly. It was followed shortly by a pickup whose driver “flipped the bird” at the crowd.

Yeckel and several other men, including Miramontes, got in the Jetta and then heard gunfire. Miramontes, who was sitting in the back seat behind Yeckel, was hit in the head by a bullet.

After the shooting, Las Vegas police found a .45-caliber handgun belonging to Miramontes in the back seat of the Jetta.

Yeckel broke down crying when prosecutor Giancarlo Pesci showed Yeckel a crime scene photo of his Jetta from the morning of the shooting.

But one of Cole’s attorneys, John Momot, grilled Yeckel and pointed out inconsistencies in his testimony Wednesday that conflicted with earlier statements he gave to police, including that he did not know who had taken Miramontes to the park.

The courtroom became tense when Cole’s friend Strawn took the stand. Strawn testified that he considered Cole his brother because they were so close. With a third friend, Strawn said they were like the Three Musketeers.

Strawn, who wasn’t at the park at the time of the shooting, testified that he was in the fight at the house party. He said he blacked out briefly after he got hit with the lacrosse stick and needed help from his girlfriend to get into her BMW to leave the party.

Strawn became upset on the witness stand when prosecutor Robert Daskas pressed him on whether Cole had fired the shots at the party.

Strawn also became combative when asked whether he and Cole ever threw lit fireworks from his car. At first, Strawn said he didn’t but then changed his testimony when pressed.

“If you’re going to be like that, then yes!” Strawn said.

Contact reporter David Kihara at dkihara@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-1039.

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