Revenge or self-defense?
A Wake County jury was in its second day of deliberation in the trial of Justin Bass, 25, a Fuquay-Varina man charged with attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill inflicting serious injury.
The shooting, which occurred during a late-night gathering at the Bay Tree apartment complex in Fuquay-Varina last July 4, left Jerome Fogg, 27, with five gunshot injuries, which he survived. Bass testified that he shot Fogg after Fogg reached for a knife at his hip from a distance of about 6 feet.
Wake County Assistant District Attorney Becky Holt and Bass' attorney, Michael Howell, agree that the shooting was directly linked to an incident that occurred one week prior, in which Fogg punched Bass three times in the face, leading to a broken jaw and surgery. But their reasoning differs.
Holt says that Bass saw Fogg enter the complex and, after giving it some thought, decided to kill Fogg as revenge for humiliating him by beating him up in front of his friends.
Fogg "thought it was over," Holt said. "But it wasn't over for Mr. Bass. He had unfinished business." After spotting Fogg in the complex, Bass began "getting up the nerve to shoot Mr. Fogg," Holt said.
Howell, in turn, said that the earlier scrum caused Bass to fear for his life, and that it factored into Bass' decision to shoot Fogg in self-defense.
The fight began over an argument about a gang gesture. Bass, who claimed allegiance to the Piru branch of the Bloods, messed up the special handshake with Fogg, who also claimed allegiance to the Pirus.
The jury watched a video, captured on an onlooker's smartphone, showing Fogg punch Bass in the jaw three times. Fogg, who was then 240 pounds, arrived to the Bay Tree apartments with a bottle of liquor and 12-pack of Bud Light. In the parking lot, he accused Bass, whom he didn't know, of running his mouth. It was Bass's birthday, and he'd been drinking vodka.
During the video, Bass remained quiet, while Fogg could be heard taunting Bass, saying things like, "Know that goddamn handshake," and "You got BG, nigga, where you goin?"
A week later, on the night of the shooting, Bass claims Fogg approached him and offered to shake his hand, which he declined because he recalled what happened with the handshake the previous time. Bass testified that Fogg then taunted him, saying, "I'm going to break your other jaw," "You like drinking Ensure?" and "You got five minutes to leave."
Bass said he backtracked, prompting Fogg to say, "Nah, nigga, I said get on the concrete."
"He was terrified," Howell told the jury. Fogg approached him "like a predator who was gonna play with his prey."
For Bass' part, he claims he shot Fogg after Fogg reached for a knife—presumably the same knife Fogg had used to decapitate a cat on the same night he beat Bass, according to a security guard.
Displaying the 2-foot knife with a jagged blade to the jury, Howell said, "It's not a little pocketknife. You ain't gonna do no whittling with this."
Fogg is a former Mixed Martial Arts fighter with the street name of "Bam-Bam," which refers to the Flintstones character who likes to hit things.
Fogg disagrees with Bass' account of the fight and the shooting, testifying that Bass provoked both events. The night of the shooting, Fogg says, Bass popped out of the breezeway and mumbled through his wired mouth, "You broke my jaw, mothafucka ... I'm gonna pop you." Fogg testified that, just before Bass fired, Fogg said, "I've never run before, so I'm not gonna start now."
After the shooting Bass fled, and ultimately dumped the gun in a river in Norfolk, Virginia, before police arrested him.
An attempted murder verdict requires premeditation and deliberation. Self-defense in shooting incidents carries four elements: that the person shot was the aggressor; that the shooter was in fear of his life or great violent injury; that such fear was reasonable; and that the use of force was not excessive.
Judge Paul Ridgeway allowed the jury to consider Fogg's reputation for violence and aggression when determining who was the aggressor the night of the shooting.
Three witnesses testified earlier in the day that Fogg had a reputation for being violent and aggressive. Outside of the jury's presence, the mother of Fogg's children testified that he physically abused her more times than she could count on two hands.
One witness said Fogg punched his own dog repeatedly, and punched the witness in a restaurant in front of children after a conversation about a food order.
"He had a Tap Out shirt on and said, 'See this shirt? That's what I do—I fight,'" said the witness. When the witness' fiance questioned Fogg, "He said, 'I don't hit females, but I can make an exception.' I said, 'What did you say?' And he punched me."
This article appeared in print with the headline "That escalated quickly."