Police release Grant Avenue murder report

SANDUSKY One month ago today an argument between two neighbors spurred the shooting of a Grant Avenu
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010

 

SANDUSKY

One month ago today an argument between two neighbors spurred the shooting of a Grant Avenue man in his backyard.

Alcohol, marijuana and racial slurs all played a role in the events leading up to the slaying, according to a Perkins police report released Monday.

Gerald Gilliam, 39, died a few hours after being shot July 7. His neighbor, Andrew D. Johnson, 59, now faces possible conviction on indictment bills for murder, voluntary manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter.

Recap of events according to police report:

*July 7, 9:02 p.m. -- Initial 911 call. Police and EMS workers arrive, and a woman points toward Johnson's residence to identify the shooter, saying, "He's in there." Johnson exits his home and extends his hands palms upward, revealing a chrome revolver in one. Johnson drops the gun per police orders and is arrested. Gilliam is lying on his back and does not respond to police when they talk to him.

*Police pick up the .38-caliber gun from Johnson's driveway, unload its six bullets and place it in evidence. Two bullets are missing from the weapon, which had been fired. Loose marijuana, a metal marijuana bowl and burnt marijuana are found behind Johnson's home. An air compressor containing marijuana is found in Johnson's pocket.

*Police talk to Gilliam's wife, Sandy, 42, who tells them he was shot on the right side of his ribs. She says the two men were arguing in Johnson's yard, which led to a "shoving match" and "punches being thrown." Sandy Gilliam tells police her husband was shot by Johnson as he was "coming over the fence" that separates the two backyards.

*Police find numerous bottles and cans of beer and alcohol in the area behind Johnson's house. Brenda Clark, 58, who lives behind Johnson on Dewitt Avenue, tells police she heard Gilliam call Johnson racial slurs. She also says she saw Johnson punch Gilliam back and said she heard two "fireworks," which turned out to be gunshots.

*Johnson tells police Gilliam came into his backyard and "just started hitting" him for no reason. Johnson tells police he did fire a gun and shot a round into the ground. He says he "didn't have time to get to the phone" before Gilliam came at him, and says there were four other people at his home at the time.

*Johnson is given a blood-alcohol content test and registers at .214 percent. Erie County Prosecutor Kevin Baxter approves charges of attempted murder and felonious assault for Johnson, who is taken to Erie County Jail.

*Gilliam is taken into surgery at Firelands Regional Medical Center. He dies shortly thereafter, and Johnson is additionally charged with murder.

The following days

*July 9 -- Police ask hospital personnel for Gilliam's personal belongings, including his clothing at the time of the shooting.

* July 10 -- Hospital officials call police to say they found Gilliam's shirt after it had been laundered. The shirt is taken by police as evidence.

* A search warrant is obtained for Johnson's house. Photos and evidence are taken from the scene.

* A detective observes the autopsy at the Lucas County Coroner's office and takes evidence removed from Gilliam's body.

Johnson interview

After the incident police interviewed Johnson, who said he cannot read or write. He was read a Miranda warning and then agreed to sign the waiver card. Johnson told police he has lived on Grant Avenue since 1989.

He told police he was at home that night, drinking with three friends. Johnson said he consumed a six- or 12-pack of beer that night and some whiskey. He told police he was an alcoholic and drinks "every day." Johnson also admitted he smoked marijuana the day of the shooting.

Johnson told police Gilliam began cussing him out and "saying bad words" and said he wanted to beat Johnson up because Gilliam did not like the way he talked.

Johnson, who is a retired Ford employee of 30 years, told police "Jerry (Gilliam) thought he was smarter" than him and did not like that he worked at Ford.

Johnson told Gilliam he lied about child support and "worked under the table," which upset Gilliam more. Gilliam told Johnson he was going to beat him up and hit him, Johnson said.

Johnson told police Gilliam jumped over onto his property and hit him "upside the head." Johnson said he was hit by Gilliam a couple of times. Johnson said he got the gun after Gilliam started cussing him out. Johnson told police he "did not want to try to kill him, but he was just shooting downward." Johnson fired once, hitting the ground. A second shot hit Gilliam in the midsection. Johnson told police he was shooting the gun to "scare" Gilliam.

Johnson told police the last time the two men drank together was about a month ago, and they had smoked marijuana together before as well.

Johnson told police he "hopes Jerry [Gilliam] does not die and he will be all right." Johnson also said Gilliam had beat him up in the past.

Interview with Sandy Gilliam

Sandy Gilliam, Gerald's wife, told police the couple hosted a graduation party for her daughter a few hours before the shooting. She said Gilliam bought a case of beer and had been drinking since about 1 p.m.

She told police Johnson and her husband were "best of friends" and the two would drink together often and go to each other's houses for cookouts. She said an "incident" occurred between the two a few weeks ago, when Johnson said Gilliam "can not grow a garden, his dog is worthless and his marriage is fake."

The two men began to argue that day, and after Johnson pulled a knife out Sandy Gilliam had her husband come inside. The two had not spoken with each other since then, she said.

Sandy Gilliam told police she was inside her home folding laundry at the time of the shooting and could hear the two men arguing outside. She looked out the window and saw the two start a shoving match, and then saw Johnson shoot Gilliam.

Her husband yelled for her to call an ambulance and then began walking down the driveway and fell, she told police. She said she did not see her husband hit Johnson and only knew they were arguing because "they were loud."

She told police it was not uncommon for her husband to use racial slurs and had heard him call Johnson by such words before.

Other police interviews with witnesses

* Deborah K. Deleon, 54, told police she was sitting in Johnson's backyard about 6 p.m. that night and overheard Gilliam saying racial slurs and "told him to shut up." About five minutes after she left she heard two shots go off.

* Fred L. Washington, 57, said he was in Johnson's yard at the time of the shooting. He told police Gilliam began "yelling obscene language" including a racial slur, over the fence when two visitors at Johnson's house began to argue.

One of the visitors then began to argue with Gilliam, going as far as to enter Gilliam's yard, after which Gilliam pushed him. Then Johnson told Gilliam "not to come to his yard," Washington said.

Gilliam hit Johnson upside the head and Johnson returned the favor, hitting him with the gun. One shot was fired into the ground and then the two men began "tussling with each other," Washington said.

Another shot was fired and Gilliam fell to the ground, Washington said. He told police he did not think Johnson intended to shoot Gilliam.

* James L. Gordon, 64, said he was in Johnson's yard at the time of the shooting. Gordon said he and some others were "having a beer in the shade" when there was a "ruckus next door" at Gilliam's house between him and another man.

Gordon said the two shots were about five seconds apart. Gordon also told police Johnson and Gilliam had fought a few weeks ago, and he had to break the two up when they were fighting. At that time Johnson had a knife pulled but did not cut Gilliam. It was "the same type of incident where it was about nothing," Gordon said.

Gordon also told police the two neighbors would "drink together every day." Gordon told police there were no threats, but that racial slurs were said at the time of the shooting. The two men argued for 10-12 minutes before the physical altercation began, Gordon told police.

* Garland S. Sage, Jr., 45, who was visiting a neighbor the night of the shooting, told police Gilliam called him over to talk about some "side jobs they were going to do together," after which Gilliam began yelling and using racial slurs, Sage told police. Sage said he does not "play that" so he got up to leave.

Sage also said for the last few weeks that Gilliam had been repeatedly calling Johnson by racial slurs. Sage told police he had left Gilliam's yard before the shots were fired and only thought they were fireworks going off.

* Brenda Clark, 58, told police she went to Gilliam's house to have a shot of whiskey with him and then "sat around with them for a while." She left and went to Johnson's yard, where she heard Gilliam say racial slurs. Gilliam was "just saying it," not directed at anyone, Clark said.

Clark said the two men drank together frequently and that a black man can only be called a racial slur "so many times."

Evidence seized for investigation:

* Smith & Wesson .38 special hand gun

* Two .38-caliber bullets

* 34 live .38-caliber pistol fire cartridges

* 35, .38-caliber live rounds center fire cartridges

* 16 live .38-caliber Western X live center pistol revolver cartridges

* Two white stones with blood on them taken from Gilliam's driveway

* Five rolls of pictures taken at the scene

* 911 tape call of shooting

* Four mini-cassette tape interviews of witnesses

* Blood-alcohol level test of Johnson

* Miranda warning card signed by Johnson

* Loose marijuana off Johnson

* Bowl containing marijuana and rolling papers off Johnson

* Shirt worn by Johnson at the time of the shooting

* Blue jeans worn by Johnson

* Pair of brown shoes worn by Johnson

* Pair of boxer shorts worn by Johnson

* Black belt worn by Johnson

* Brown handle folding hoof knife blade off Johnson

* Blue lighter off Johnson

* Video and cassette tape interview of Johnson

* Tennis shoes worn by Gilliam

* Blue jeans worn by Gilliam

* White T-shirt worn by Gilliam

* One mouth swab / One DNA blood standard card from Gilliam

Source: Perkins Police report