A Clark Atlanta University freshman accused of shooting and injuring a Morehouse student earlier this month won’t be allowed to go free on bond.
A Fulton County Superior Court judge found probable cause on Monday to send Amir Obafemi, 19, to trial for allegations that he shot Cornelius Savage over who had “next” in a pick-up basketball game. Savage was shot in the forearm.
“The court is not inclined to grant bond at this time,” Judge Karen Woodson said. “The accused poses a significant threat of danger to the community and poses a significant threat of committing a felony before trial.”
But Obafemi’s attorney, Akil Secret, told the court that his client acted to protect himself.
“Mr. Savage took aggressive steps toward Mr. Obafemi,” Secret said. “In self-defense, Mr. Obafemi fired.”
Secret also questioned whether Morehouse College police were manipulating evidence.
“I am concerned that there are several cameras inside Archer Hall (where the shooting took place) and that information is not being released,” Secret told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution following the hearing.
Obafemi is charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, possession of a gun on school property, possession of a gun during the commission of a felony, and aggravated battery for the Feb. 1 incident. He could face as much as 20 years in prison.
His father, Chaka Obafemi – also known as Chaka Zulu, the co-founder with Atlanta hip-hop star Ludacris of Disturbing Tha Peace records – worried that his son was being misrepresented by Morehouse officials.
“Morehouse is putting out misinformation about my son, but not putting out any information on Savage,” the older Obafemi said.
Reached by phone Monday, Morehouse spokeswoman Elise Durham cited federal regulations protecting students’ information when she declined to give Savage’s age, major or classification, saying the school would release more information if Savage so chose.
From the stand Monday, Morehouse police officer David Palmer told the court that multiple witnesses reported seeing the shooting and the altercation that preceded it.
“A couple of boys were arguing as they entered the gym,” Palmer said, reading a witness statement. “They kept arguing and enticing one another to see who would fight … but no one initiated. Mr. Savage returned inside and was upset that the other guy involved in the argument wasn’t man enough to fight.”
Continuing to read the witness statement, Palmer said Savage returned outside, where Obafemi was waiting.
“As Savage approached the other guy, the other guy pulled a gun and fired at Mr. Savage four times,” the officer said.
Reading a statement from one of Obafemi’s friends, Palmer said the argument began over who would play the next game, and when an individual lost the dispute, he sat on the sidelines and made a phone call. Ten minutes later, two males arrived, and the person who called them pointed at the person he had the altercation with, according to the statement.
The gym closed to prepare for an official school event, and as people left, Savage and Obafemi came into contact with one another.
“As the men left, one of the men that was called up there walked past (Obafemi and his friend) with a mean expression,” Palmer read, saying Obafemi responded, “Does someone have something to say?”
Secret pointed to these statements, as he made a plea that his client was defending himself.
Palmer said police also used video captured from a student’s phone and from school buildings to identify the people involved in the incident.
But when Secret asked why he never received copies of those videos after requesting them via subpoena, Palmer, the lead investigator in the case, said he wasn’t able to produce them.
“That’s above my pay grade,” Palmer said.
Palmer said he was uncertain exactly where the cameras in Archer Hall were, and that he wasn’t able to access footage from a camera on another building that may have been facing the incident.
Secret asked Morehouse Police Chief Vernon Worthy about the video footage, particularly the video collected from the student’s phone. Worthy told the court he didn’t have possession of the footage, but assumed that it was handled safely.
“Would you agree that the video on (the student’s) phone is evidence?” Secret asked Worthy in court.
“I don’t agree,” Worthy answered.
Police said whatever video was produced was in the hands of prosecutors with the Fulton County District Attorney.
Still, Secret worried that the mobile phone video may have been tampered with or even erased completely.
“Whatever copy is produced, I have to question the integrity of that video,” he said.
Obafemi will remain in the Fulton County Jail awaiting a March 11 court date and a possible formal bond hearing.