Bedford shooting case heads to court
BEDFORD — A magisterial district judge in Bedford County has dismissed a charge of aggravated assault and multiple counts of simple assault and recklessly endangering against a Schellsburg mechanic who last August fired a shotgun blast into a crowd of activists that included five children as they marched on their way to a Black Lives Matter rally in Washington, D.C.
Seven counts of recklessly endangering and a harassment charge, which is a summary offense, were bound over for court.
A state police investigation showed that Terry L. Myers, 52, wounded one of the leaders of the group, Orsino Von Thurman, 37, and caused panic among the marchers.
Group members transported Von Thurman to a hospital in Johnstown where he was treated for wounds of the face and torso, then released.
The state police investigation also showed that the backstory to the shooting was more complicated than first realized.
The incident occurred between 11 and 11:30 p.m. last Aug. 24.
It was dark, and Myers received a call from his father Elmer J. Myers, who is over 70 years old, informing him that a large group of protesters had gathered on Lincoln highway near his father’s home and garage and two people were shining lights into his dad’s garage.
Efforts by the father to disperse the group failed, and state police were called.
Terry Myers responded to his father’s call by grabbing his 12-gauge shotgun and walking toward his dad’s home, which was several hundred yards away.
Terry Myers told police he fired the shotgun twice as “warning shots” as he approached the home.
The investigation by Trooper Adam Zinn showed those shots were away from the crowd and into the air.
Terry also attempted but failed to disperse the crowd.
He then saw two flashes in the dark, an indication to him and his father that someone in the crowd had shot at them.
He fired his shotgun, aiming at the spot where he saw the two flashes.
On Wednesday, State Police Investigator Zinn took the stand during the preliminary hearing before Magisterial District Judge H. Cyril Bingham and related that during his investigation, he found a 9 mm pistol along the road in front of the Myers home.
He also found blood in the parking lot along the road, and he found a projectile inside the garage where Myers and his father had been standing when the two shots were fired from the crowd.
DNA testing of the items linked Von Thurman to the gun, blood and projectile.
After an investigation that took several months, Zinn filed criminal charges against Terry Myers and Von Thurman.
Charges authorized by Bedford County District Attorney Leslie Childers-Potts included 19 counts of simple assault, 19 counts of recklessly endangering others as well as charges of criminal mischief, harassment and aggravated assault — attempt to cause bodily injury with a deadly weapon.
The charges against Von Thurman included two counts of simple assault, two counts of recklessly endangering, possession of a firearm prohibited (due to three prior convictions), criminal mischief, defiant trespass, aggravated assault, and attempts to cause bodily injury with a deadly weapon.
Von Thurman has yet to be arraigned on his charges but has acquired an attorney who on Wednesday asked that the preliminary hearing for Myers be continued.
Judge Bingham denied the request.
After five hours of testimony, which included Zinn and four marchers, who although not injured in the incident, told the court of the fear and terror they felt as the gunfire erupted.
Tamika Burks, a marcher, burst into tears when taking the witness stand but before being questioned, as she remembered the trauma that her four children felt when gunfire erupted.
She recalled people screaming and her own shock as her daughter cried, “I don’t want to die.”
Marcher James Cekus from North Carolina said his 8-year-old daughter, Violet, accompanied him.
Upon hearing shots, he opened his car door so his daughter could get inside and be protected.
He was asked by Childers-Potts if anyone other than Von Thurman, also known as “Chino,” had gotten hurt during the gunfire.
“Not physically, but mentally,” he said.
Another marcher, Renee Ann Muza of Milwaukee, was filming the event and she said she “was terrified. … I was terrified, utterly terrified,” but she said she continued to record what was happening.
She said she was so scared she could “hear myself breathing.”
According to Joseph Gorseh of Milwaukee, when the shooting started, people began to “freak out.”
The marchers explained that they joined the group of protesters as part of a trek from Milwaukee to Washington where they were to join in a protest at the Lincoln Memorial.
On Aug. 24, they gathered in the parking lot across the street from Earl Myers’ home, preparing for a nighttime walk with a group of about 30 or 35 people and several cars, according to the testimony.
Childers-Potters pointed out Terry Myers cooperated with investigators, and she said he was truthful about what occurred that night, but she said Myers, in firing his shotgun, caused others to be in fear. And his shooting into the crowd — where he saw the two flashes — endangered many of the people in the group. His shooting was even more serious because it was across a public highway. Childers-Potters stressed it resulted in injury to Von Thurman.
But, the prosecution’s case against Myers was weakened because many of those who were allegedly assaulted and placed in danger did not appear for the preliminary hearing.
That led Childers-Potts to recommend dismissal of nine counts of simple assault and seven counts of recklessly endangering.
Bingham agreed to drop those charges.
Myers’ defense attorney, Matthew R. Zatko of Somerset also recommended the aggravated assault against Myers be dismissed, noting Von Thurman did not appear for the preliminary hearing.
Childers-Potts argued the government had proven Von Thurman’s assault through other witnesses, but Bingham refused to transfer the charge to the Bedford County Court of Common Pleas for trial.
The Bedford DA also recommended a charge of criminal mischief against Myers be dropped, and Bingham agreed.
Myers indicated after the hearing that he had nothing to say, but, as he was getting into his vehicle in the parking garage to the rear of the courthouse, he stood up and came around the car telling a group of state police troopers, “I would like to say ‘thank you’ to the state police. Thank you,” he said.
Zatko said there were 83 state police officers assigned to the courthouse, both in uniform and plain clothes, to provide security for the hearing.
He said that Judge Bingham’s dropping of many of the most serious charges was a “tremendous source of relief” for Myers.
Zatko said the next step will be to go to trial on the remaining charges.
“Obviously we are pleased. … I still welcome the opportunity to clear Mr. Myers of all the charges,” Zatko said.