Third trial underway after shootout with police

Byron Bush

UPDATE: State District Judge Larry Gist of the Drug Impact Court of Jefferson County accepted a jury verdict of guilty Friday, May 12, 2017, and sentenced Byron E. Bush, 37, to 40 years in prison, announced Criminal District Attorney Bob Wortham.

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A jury has been seated and testimony taken in the third trial on the same charges presented against Byron Bush of Beaumont, who is alleged to have shot at Jefferson County sheriff’s deputies Chad Kolander and Marcus McLellan during a foot-pursuit that occurred in May 2014.

Bush is charged with two counts of attempted capital murder stemming from the 2014 incident in which Bush was the only one injured. The accused has been held in the Jefferson County Jail since his release from the hospital nearly a week after the incident, where he was treated for wounds that left him in intensive care. Bush is currently being jailed on a mental health hold that has no bond, as well as criminal bonds totaling more than $1 million.

The trial is expected to wrap up by the end of the week.

A jury pool vetted in Judge Larry Gist’s Drug Impact Court on Tuesday, May 9, was asked questions directly related to the Bush trial prior to defense attorney Ryan Gertz and state prosecutors Chris Cadena and Bobby Scott narrowing the group down to 12 jurors plus alternates.

Among the questions posed to prospects, one centered on the fact that Bush is the son of elected Beaumont ISD school board trustee Zenobia Bush, inquiring of the group there to fulfill their jury duty obligation whether they “have any opinions about her that might impact (their) ability to hear this case.”

Prior to jury selection, jurors were asked how much they agreed with statements that included, “A person has the right to defend himself if attacked by another,” and, “If someone fears he is about to be attacked, he does not have to wait until the actual attack, but can ‘throw the first punch’ in order to defend himself?”

Questions posed relating to self-defense are at the core of the Bush argument – he was only trying to protect himself from men who were shooting at him, he says. According to Bush, the law enforcement officers never identified themselves as police.

Testimony and evidence shown to the jury this week has been presented before. Oct. 7, 2016, jurors in the same court could not reach a unanimous verdict after roughly a week of testimony. Prior to that, the case was heard before another jury – which also failed to produce a unanimous verdict.

Prosecutors in the case asserted (three times now in front of a jury) that Bush knowingly fired on Kolander and McLellan while they were at the Stone Hearst Apartments on East Lucas Drive to protect a witness who had identified Bush as an actor in a separate violent crime. On the witness stand, Kolander and McLellan alleged that, in the days prior to the gunfight, Bush and two brothers – Marcom Stagg and Thomas Stagg – broke into the home of an elderly Jefferson County woman, beat and robbed her. Thomas Stagg was cooperating with police, and the assertion is that Bush suspected his former collaborator was talking to cops.

According to testimony from the man who claimed to be Bush’s former co-conspirator, Bush was at Thomas Stagg’s apartment that fateful day in May 2014 to keep him from testifying by any means necessary. However, when Thomas did give sworn testimony about the case two years later, he told the jury empaneled to deliberate brother Marcom Stagg’s culpability in the crime that only his brother assaulted the woman. According to him, Marcom hit the woman in the head with a gun before forcing her to walk barefoot through glass and rubble to retrieve cash kept in a safe in her home. Marcom was convicted of aggravated robbery and sentenced to 50 years in prison on May 2, 2016. Thomas has also been charged in connection to the aggravated robbery. Bush was never charged with any crime related to the burglary or assault.

Bush testified that when he went to Thomas’ home, he thought Kolander (the only officer he could see in the tiny, sparsely lit doorway) was an “angry homeowner” and he apologized and turned to leave. He told the court he only turned and fired his weapon after he realized he was being chased by two armed men he thought were trying to rob him.

Both deputies testified that they answered the door with their guns drawn and their badges displayed at their waists, but Bush and attorney Gertz asserted the attempted capital murder defendant did not know the men were officers. Thomas Stagg, the man Bush was allegedly there to harm, also testified he did not believe the officers identified themselves as police.

In 2017, the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office secured an additional indictment alleging Bush’s criminal possession of a firearm by a felon. He also faces charges of possession of controlled substances.

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