YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — The lead detective in the Samuel Byrd murder case Thursday walked jurors in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court through the process of determining that Byrd was the suspect in the killing of a man at a South Avenue gas station.
Lt. Robert Gentile, who was a detective sergeant when Keimone Black, 29, was shot and killed about 3 a.m. June 15 at the Shell Station at South and Samuel avenues, was able to determine it was Byrd who fired the shots based on several things he observed from looking at video footage of the gas station and the street behind it.
Byrd, 69, has been on trial since Monday before Visiting Judge Thomas Pokorny on a charge of aggravated murder for Black’s death. Testimony in the case began Tuesday. Judge Pokorny told jurors this morning he expected the state to wrap up their case today. Jurors heard closing arguments Thursday afternoon.
Black was in the driver’s seat of an SUV at a gas pump when someone walked up to the passenger’s window and fired several shots, killing him.
Under direct examination from Assistant Prosecutor Rob Andrews, Gentile reviewed several videos of the shooting as well as footage taken from cameras at a home on Dickson Street, which is behind the gas station.
Prosecutors said video footage on Dickson Street shows a car pull into a drive and a man get out of the passenger’s seat. The car backs out of the drive and later the same man is seen coming back to the car, which then drove away.
Gentile said once he was back in the Detective Bureau at the police department, he was able to zoom in while watching the videos and determine the shooter was Byrd because he had interacted with him at least four months before Black was killed.
He said he was able to recognize Byrd’s face and also the way he walked and a wrist injury. He said Byrd would curl his left wrist, and in one of the videos showing the shooting, a man was shown firing a gun with his right hand while his left hand was curled at the wrist at his shoulder.
Gentile also said he noticed the shoes the shooter was wearing, a non-descript pair of gray sneakers. He said when police went to the Boardman Walmart where Byrd worked, they saw video footage of him there wearing the same shoes. Prosecutors said in their opening statement that Byrd was wearing the same shoes when he was questioned by detectives.
Gentile also testified that investigators were able to link two cars to a home in the 800 block of East Avondale Avenue that Byrd was known to go to. Also, when Gentile went to the Dickson Street home to review the video footage there, his partner, Detective Sgt. Anthony Vitullo, found a fresh cigarette butt where the car was parked.
The cigarette was later tested for DNA and it was found to match Byrd’s DNA, Gentile testified.
Defense attorneys contended in their opening statement that the video quality was not good enough to recognize Byrd by his face.
A motive for the slaying has not been provided during the trial.