An eyewitness testified Monday at the murder trial of a man accused of killing Minneapolis North sophomore and star quarterback Deshaun Hill Jr., saying that she saw Hill fall to the ground after three rounds of gunfire, called 911 and checked on him.
"I have no medical training at all so I just tried talking to him. I took his hand and I said, 'Hey, friend, it's OK. I called 911, help is on the way,'" Ashley McNamara said. She was the first eyewitness to take the stand in the trial of Cody Fohrenkam, charged with fatally shooting Hill on the afternoon of Feb. 9, 2022, near Golden Valley Road and Penn Avenue in north Minneapolis as he walked home from school.
Fohrenkam, 30, is standing trial in Hennepin County for second-degree murder. His public defenders told jurors during a four-minute opening statement that no physical evidence ties him to the shooting. Police never recovered the murder weapon or found his fingerprints or DNA. His defense attorney Brooke Adams added there will be more unanswered questions at the end of trial, "inevitable in such a senseless tragedy."
But Hennepin County prosecutor Christopher Filipski told jurors there is a swath of video surveillance from businesses and homeowners that places Fohrenkam in the area of the shooting. He also was seen wearing clothing that matched the suspect's description — specifically red pants — provided by multiple eyewitnesses, including McNamara, who works in social services and had accompanied clients to the food shelf that afternoon on Golden Valley Road, across the street from the shooting.
McNamara said she turned around after hearing the first gunshot, then shielded her clients from seeing the rest, as they have mental illnesses. She said Hill crouched down to avoid being shot, and she saw a man wearing red pants, a dark jacket and backpack run away after more shots were fired and Hill was struck, collapsing to the sidewalk.
She went up to Hill, noting he was nonresponsive. She heard sirens, and first responders arrived moments later. When she shared other graphic details about Hill's condition, his father, Deshaun Hill Sr., appeared overwhelmed and left the courtroom.
Jurors heard McNamara's 911 call and interview at the scene, which police recorded on body cameras. She initially told police the suspect may have been African American but she said that her "focus was more on the child in front of me."
Wally's Foods, a convenience store at the intersection, captured the shooting on surveillance. Alison Murray, who works in the Minneapolis police crime lab, said she's familiar with Wally's 16 cameras, which allowed her to pull footage of the shooting.
Filipski said hours before the shooting Fohrenkam is shown inside being robbed of his cellphone at knifepoint. After that, he allegedly changed clothes into the red pants and went out searching for the thief.
Three residents on nearby Oliver Avenue provided home security video to police, including Marshelle Keys, 38. She testified that she and her wife had a confrontation with Fohrenkam as they were driving home through the alleyway when he and another man would not step aside. When they heard about the shooting shortly after, they checked their home security video.
"We saw Deshaun walking up Golden Valley Road toward the bus stop. About a minute later on the video we heard gun shots. … After that we saw the guy with the red pants running up around the corner and up into our alleyway," Keys said.
Frederick Wilson, 56, said he heard the gunshots and went down to the bus stop and saw Hill lying on the ground. He didn't know at the time who the victim was, but he went home to check his cameras, which captured the shooting. He shared the video with police because "it's the right thing to do."
"I lost a son in 2003, and no one came forward," he said.
Earlier in the day, he was standing on his balcony and observed a neighbor, Russell E. James Sr., talking to a man in red pants who was ranting about someone stealing his cellphone. Wilson said he was too far away to identify Fohrenkam in a photo lineup, but James did.
Fohrenkam's attorneys say that neither the height or the weight of the suspect was noted in descriptions from witnesses.
Retired Minneapolis police officer Joseph Schany took the witness stand and had to pause several times to gather himself as he appeared emotional when telling jurors what he saw at the scene.
"When I showed up he was bleeding profusely. … He had a pulse but it was weak," he said.
Photographs of the crime scene show the sidewalk and snow soaked in blood. A blue backpack belonging to Hill was left behind after he was taken to the hospital, where he died the next day.
Hill's mother, Tuesday Sheppard, was the first witness called to testify Monday morning. She said Hill was her only son, the captain of the football team, an honor roll student with dozens of college offers awaiting him despite being only in the 10th grade.
"He was amazing, beautiful smile, great kid. A lot of kids wanted to be like him. Instead of LeBron James, they wanted to be like Deshaun Hill," she said. "That's how great he was."
Testimony resumes Tuesday morning.