HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – The first day of testimony in the trial of LaJeromeny Brown, who is accused of killing Huntsville Police Department (HPD) STAC Agent Billy Clardy III, was filled with emotion as body camera footage and crime scene photos were shown to the court.
Clardy was fatally wounded in a house on Levert Street during a drug operation. He later died at Huntsville Hospital. Brown has been in the Madison County Jail since his arrest the night of the incident in December 2019.
The jury selection process began last week and was finalized on Tuesday. There will be 12 jurors and four alternates for Brown’s trial. The jury consists of seven women and nine men – only one juror is Black. Alternates will not know their status until the jury is set to deliberate. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
News 19 Investigative Reporter Dallas Parker was in the courtroom Wednesday and provided live updates throughout the day. This article provides summaries of each witness’s testimony, but if you’d like to see the ‘live’ updates, scroll to the bottom of this article for a live blog.
State prosecutor Tim Douthit began the day with their opening statements. Douthit says Clardy, a 14-year veteran of HPD and member of the Strategic Counterdrug Team (or STAC), was shot and killed by Brown during a drug sting.
Douthit described the events that led up to the fatal shooting. He said a confidential informant told STAC that a guy named “Tennessee,” later identified as Brown, could get them, “a bunch of weed.” There was an initial buy, Brown showed up and sold the marijuana. Then, a second buy was set up to take place at a vacant home on Levert Street in Huntsville. Clardy was inside the home, along with several others. He was not armed, and the plan was to grab Brown when he walked into the home, according to Douthit.
Douthit says when Brown entered the home, he began shooting as soon as he walked in. Clardy was wounded and Brown ran away from the home. Clardy was shot three times, one bullet was found in his stomach, one through his back and the third was through the arm across the top of his heart, according to Douthit. Officers eventually caught Brown and Clardy was taken to the hospital by another agent.
The defense had a very brief opening statement, only lasting about two minutes. Eric Wood addressed the jury, and in summary, told them they were about to see a lot of evidence, that the vast majority of these events happened very quickly and to hold the state to their burden.
The state called their first witness, HPD Agent Blake Dean who is a member of the North Alabama Drug Task Force (NADTF). Dean said the informant contacted him and they set up the buys. Brown agreed to sell three pounds of marijuana, and if that buy went well, then he would sell 100 pounds, according to Dean. Afterward, agents followed ”Tennessee” and got the tag of the car he was driving, Dean said that led them to identify Brown.
After the initial buy, Brown called the informant and told him he would meet to sell 100 pounds of marijuana for $60,000, according to Dean, but that he wanted the buy to be at a house. Officer Clardy’s wife, a realtor, was able to get the vacant home on Levert Street approved by her company for the drug operation.
Dean said this wasn’t a controlled buy — the goal was to take Brown into custody and recover the drugs. Dean says he was the one who made the plan and that he, Clardy and Agent Morris would be in the house.
On the day of the operation, officers met at a parking lot nearby to get into the surveillance vehicle and head to the home. Dean says everyone on the perimeter of the house had on marked vests but were wearing ‘street clothes’ (i.e. jeans, t-shirts and hoodies). Clardy realized he left his vest in his car, but Agent Morris gave him his vest since he was undercover and didn’t need one, according to Dean.
Dean says while they were in the house, an agent on the outside said that there was a Dodge Ram truck, driven by Brown, pulling up. When Brown walks up to the home and knocks on the door, the officers on the outside are told by Dean to move in. Dean, who was emotional on the stand, said when Agent Morris told him to come in, Brown says, “What the f*ck?” and then begins firing, hitting Clardy.
At that point, Dean said once he saw other STAC agents chasing Brown, he began to work on Clardy. He said another officer showed up with his truck and he took Clardy to the hospital. Dean says he remained at the scene until a group went to the hospital to wait for an update on Clardy.
Body camera footage was then shown by the state. The court heard rapid gunfire, showing Clardy on the ground and the agent saying, “Hang in there, Billy,” over and over again. The agent is asking Clardy questions, but he is not responding, and other officers begin doing chest compressions. Dean is in tears on the stand, and Clardy’s family is also in tears. Brown was also seen wiping his eyes with tissue after the video played.
During cross-examination, Defense Attorney Bruce Gardner asked Dean about the difference between a confidential source and a confidential informant. Dean says that informants typically have charges against them and that this informant was facing trafficking charges for cocaine and heroin. Dean says he was the lead investigator and one who communicated with the informant. Agent Morris was the third party.
Gardner also asked Dean various questions about the buy, the house and why officers didn’t take Brown down when they saw him. Dean answered, “That wasn’t the plan.” Gardner then asked, “Did anyone holler ‘police’?” Dean said he wasn’t sure and that he would have to watch the video again saying, “I know it said ‘POLICE’ on the vest.”
Gardner told Dean that he could’ve aborted the operation, to which Dean responded, “Abort the operation of 100 pounds of marijuana that your client brought to Huntsville?” Garder says yes, and Dean replies no.
The next witness, Agent Tommy Morris, was called by the state. Morris said he retired from HPD two years ago and was in law enforcement for a total of 27 years. He was the undercover agent in Brown’s case. Morris described similar details about the second buy. Morris says after he waved Brown in, he heard gunshots and Agent Dean told him Clardy had been hit. Morris was in the front seat of the vehicle that took Clardy to the hospital, while another agent was administering CPR.
During his cross-examination, Garder only asked Morris where Brown was when he waved him in, and Morris said he was across the street in the truck. Morris was then excused.
The state then called Agent Bradley Snipes, he is currently with the Police Academy but has been with HPD for 17 years. He is also a Marine.
Snipes says he was on surveillance/takedown for the operation. He said they decided to let Brown get out of the truck to keep him from running and creating a public safety issue. By the time Snipes arrived at the house, he says Brown was already running out of the house with a gun in his hand. He said he drew his weapon and began chasing Brown in his vehicle. Snipes says he got out of his vehicle and chased Brown on foot, and that Brown tossed his gun during the chase.
Snipes was the agent who drove Clardy to the hospital, and his body camera footage was shown in the courtroom. The video shows Snipes speeding with his gun drawn, jumping out to chase Brown, and then Brown on the ground. It then appeared that the body camera fell. When the camera picked up, you see Snipes running towards the house, telling agents to load up Clardy in the truck and shouting, “Let’s go!” The video shows Clardy being put into the back and bleeding from his neck. Family and other spectators could be heard crying in the courtroom while this was playing. The video concludes after Clardy was loaded onto a gurney at the hospital, his body appeared lifeless and limp.
After a lunch break, the state called another agent to the stand who worked with STAC and was a part of the ‘takedown’ team during the operation. The agent said he saw Brown running with the pistol in his hand and when Brown threw the gun. He stood guard over the gun until crime scene investigators came.
This agent’s body camera footage was also shown to the court. The video shows Brown running, the chase, and when he was taken down in the grass. It also shows Clardy being loaded into the vehicle and you hear someone say, “He’s in custody,” and the video ends.
The defense asked the agent if he saw Brown fire the weapon, and the agent said no.
Next, the state called another STAC agent to the stand who supervised ‘operations.’ He was parked in a lot on Washington Street and described the moments leading up to the shooting, “Just before I saw Brown running, I heard a rapid succession of gunfire,” he said. The agent said he administered CPR and put pressure on Clardy’s wounds. The court also watched this agent’s body camera footage, you could see him doing chest compressions on Clardy and he was gasping for air. There was no cross-examination, and he was excused.
Investigator Steve Martin, a 17-year veteran with HPD, was then called to the stand. The court was shown hundreds of crime scene photos during his testimony, the number totaled nearly 1,000.
Photos included everything from the hospital, bullet holes through the front door of the house, the truck officials say Brown pulled up in, the gun with extended magazine, as well as various items believed to have been on Brown or in the truck at the time of the crime. They also showed photos of a backpack filled with three bales of marijuana found in the bed of the truck along with another backpack of marijuana found in the backseat. There was also a photo of the vehicle’s registration in the glovebox along with a bill of sale, both in Brown’s name.
Next, the photos showed Clardy’s wounds and his clothing from the day he was killed. Investigators then showed the jury the vest Clardy was wearing and the bales of marijuana from the day of Brown’s arrest, which totaled approximately 100 pounds.
FBI Agent Andrew Stark was the last witness called to testify on Wednesday. He oversees the regional computer forensic evidence lab and he examined two cell phones in this case. Stark showed the court the contents of the cell phones, the first one being a Motorola phone.
The evidence showed texts/calls from early December, including a phone call from Brown to ‘Bigs’ which lasted 7 minutes. A text message from Brown to ‘Bigs’ showing a photo of a hand holding weed was also shown. On the day of Clardy’s death, you see several calls between the two.
Evidence from the second phone showed selfies from the camera roll and a photo of Brown’s commercial driver’s license. The same email address was logged in on both devices. Stark was not cross-examined by the defense and he was excused.
Court was adjourned for the day and Judge Comer asked the jury to return to the courthouse at 9 a.m. Thursday.
Below you will find live updates from inside the courtroom by News 19 Investigative Reporter Dallas Parker.