Detective: Midtown shooting suspect said, ‘It was just that time’

Images of a Midtown office building and parking deck just before a deadly 2011 lunchtime shooting played Tuesday for jurors in the murder trial of Nkosi Thandiwe.

Investigators testified in Fulton County Superior Court that Thandiwe acknowledged to a co-worker what he did in a phone call hours after the incident.

The former security guard is accused of fatally shooting Brittney Watts before taking her car and speeding away from the Proscenium parking deck in a hail of bullets that left Lauren Garcia paralyzed and Tiffany Ferenczy injured.

Atlanta police homicide detective Brett Zimbrick interviewed Allied Barton worker Joanne Brothers and had her call Thandiwe.

“He called back,” Zimbrick told the jury, noting that Brothers put the call on speaker so that the detective could hear.

From the witness stand, Zimbrick repeated what he heard:

“What have you done?” Brothers asked.

“Didn’t the police tell you?” Thandiwe replied.

“Why did you do it?” she asked him.

“It was just that time,” Thandiwe answered.

As prosecutors played footage collected from Atlanta’s police video network and from the Proscenium’s security staff – the same footage Thandiwe was supposed to be monitoring that day for the Midtown building’s hired security – the videos showed the events of July 15, 2011.

With a time stamp of just before noon on that day, the traffic camera at the corner of Crescent Street and 14th Street, which is operated by private security firm Midtown Blue and shared with Atlanta police, captured an image of Watts leaving the building where she worked and crossing Crescent to the parking deck.

Atlanta police homicide detective David Coleman confirmed Watts’ identity as the video played, then pointed out Thandiwe, about a quarter of a mile away from her on the sidewalk at the opposite end of the parking deck.

“I determined that they had to have met inside the parking deck,” Coleman said.

Moments later, Coleman identified the group of women crossing Crescent in the video as including Garcia and Ferenczy, and the jury soon sees a black Toyota Prius burst from the parking garage as the women scatter and one falls to the ground.

Videos from Proscenium actually showed earlier scenes of Watts, in jeans and a plaid top with her laptop bag slung over her shoulder and carrying an umbrella, walking through the building lobby and later through the parking deck.

As the video played, sniffling could be heard from the courtroom as members of Watts’ family hugged closer to one another.

Donovan Yarbough, a manager with Allied Barton Security Services, who was Thandiwe’s supervisor that day, testified that Thandiwe had been monitoring the Proscenium videos earlier that morning and left duty roughly a half-hour before the shooting.

“He took a lunch break around 11:30 (a.m.) that day,” Yarbough said.

The cameras that Thandiwe had been watching showed him, only minutes earlier than Watts, passing through the building lobby and crossing the street to the parking deck, then going upstairs and talking with someone before returning to ground level and loitering outside the vehicle exit to the garage.

Earlier Tuesday morning, the two surviving victims relived their horror from the shooting.

“I heard a loud noise … and I just fell to the ground,” Garcia said from her wheelchair in front of the witness stand. “I couldn’t move my legs. I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t feel my legs.”

“I will never walk again,” said Garcia, who remains paralyzed from the waist down as a result of the shooting.

Tiffany Ferenczy told the jury she tried to run to the parking deck when she saw the driver of the Prius cut off another car then start shooting.

“I’m still recovering,” Ferenczy said, noting that she didn’t immediately realize she had been shot in the leg.

She wore a grey dress suit that revealed two dark penny-sized marks on the outside and back of her right calf.

Kara Bikoff, who was walking to lunch with Ferenczy and Garcia at the time of the shooting, testified that she saw the shooter’s gun “pointing directly at our group.”

Late in Tuesday’s testimony, Fulton County’s Deputy Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Michelle Stauffenberg said the single shot that killed Watts entered the back of her neck, fracturing her vertebrae and severing her spinal cord.

“All of her motor functions would fail,” Stauffenberg said. “Once the bullet damages her spinal cord, her diaphragm stops working. She would’ve died in seconds.”

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Kelly A. Lee dismissed the jury shortly after 5 p.m., and testimony will resume Wednesday morning at 9 a.m.

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