DULUTH – Two days after his friends picked him up from the airport for a visit to the city he considered home — and just before the group was going to get lunch from T-Bonz Bar & Grill — Paris Allen was fatally shot in the head.
Allen, 19, died on a sidewalk in the Lincoln Park neighborhood on Aug. 2 — Duluth's only homicide so far this year born of an ongoing feud between his group of friends and Brandon Capone Williams-Gillard and Sanussi Bangoura. Williams-Gillard, 25, is charged with second-degree aiding and abetting murder and assault and for drive-by shooting. He demanded a speedy trial, which started this week at the St. Louis County Courthouse.
Bangoura faces similar charges and is currently being held in the county jail. His next hearing is Dec. 14.
"It all happened too fast," an emotional Caleb Reinolt-Nemec told the jury Thursday morning. Allen's longtime friend, he occasionally paused while testifying to hold his head in his hands. He, too, was shot during the altercation. A bullet cut through his body near his hip; it continues to cause jolts and twitches.
In the first two days of testimony, witnesses talked about a yearlong feud that had never before advanced beyond the exchange of harsh words. That changed with a spray of bullets on a summer afternoon.
So far, no witnesses have testified to seeing a gun or who fired the fatal shot.
Jackson Morales told the jury that the confrontation started that day when two men in a blue Chrysler blocked him into a parking lot. Not wanting to face-off with them alone, Morales asked them to come down the street and box. The men in the Chrysler followed Morales back to where Allen, Reinolt-Nemec and other friends were hanging out.
Neither of the men would get out of the Chrysler, so Morales and Reinolt-Nemec walked toward them.
Reinolt-Nemec said he saw Bangoura, the driver, reach for something and believed that it would be a weapon. So he punched Bangoura in the face through the open drivers' side window, then ran for cover.
Reinolt-Nemec said he felt a bullet hit him before he heard the sound of rapid gunfire as the car drove away.
His own leg was tingling; Allen, prone on the sidewalk, was bleeding from his head.
"He wasn't moving," Reinolt-Nemec said. "And there was nothing I could do."
Reinolt-Nemec called for an ambulance before Morales drove him to St. Luke's Hospital. On Thursday, Morales testified that he didn't know who was in the Chrysler. He identified both men right after the shooting in an interview with Duluth police officer Russell Bradley, whose body worn camera footage played in the courtroom.
"I'm not a rat," Morales said of his lapse in memory. "People are already on my ass trying to kill me — I'm not putting a bigger target on me."
Morales expressed anger toward defense attorney Laura Zimm and her repetitive questions. He directed an indecipherable comment either toward her or Williams-Gillard on his way out of the courtroom.
A witness told Judge Eric Hylden that Morales had said "I'm going to take care of this myself."
Allen was living in California in August, but had returned to Duluth to visit friends and family. Brian Allen, his father, testified earlier this week that Paris was going to undergo testing to see if he could donate a kidney to him. He said his son loved acoustic guitar, art, football and hanging out with his friends. He was a dedicated boxer and a fan of his father's special recipe for "man meat spaghetti."
"One day he was going to grow up and leave the nest," Brian Allen said. "It wasn't supposed to be, in my mind, like this."