In the four minutes before a 911 caller reported the Metairie shooting death of 20-year-old Vernon Stokes, the victim’s mobile phone was used to take a series of photos of his best friend, Brandon “B-Man” Thomas-Clark, posing with a gun in front of him.
Based on the background seen in the photos, Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office detective Steven Mehrtens said he could tell the pictures were taken in the same place where Stokes was found dead.
“The last image is [Thomas-Clark] posing with both hands on the gun, pointing it down at the ground, “Mehrtens testified in court Tuesday. The final photo was taken May 19 at 9:03 pm
Within the next two minutes, Stokes was shot more than 10 times, prompting the 9:05 pm call to 911, Mehrtens said. Thomas-Clark, 22, of New Orleans, was booked two days later with second-degree murder.
Mehrtens took the witness stand to testify during a preliminary hearing for Thomas-Clark in Magistrate Court.
Stokes was shot and killed in the 1000 block of South Cumberland Street in Metairie on Thomas-Clark’s birthday. The two men were childhood friends, says Stokes’ mother, Nichelle Stokes, 46.
“Brandon Clark used to spend the night at my house. [Vernon] treated him like he was a brother. I treated him like he was a kid of mine, “she said shortly after Thomas-Clark’s arrest.
Stokes’ parents told investigators their son was celebrating Thomas-Clark’s birthday on the night of the shooting.
Deputies found Stokes lying near his vehicle in the driveway of a residence, two of the vehicle’s doors open and spent 9mm bullet casings on the ground. That led investigators to suspect someone had rifled through the vehicle, Mehrtens said.
Thomas-Clark was nowhere to be found. But the photos on Stokes’ phone showed he and at least one other person had been there minutes earlier, Mehrtens said.
The gun that Thomas-Clark was seen holding in the photos, a tan-colored pistol, belonged to Stokes, Mehrtens said. The gun has not been recovered.
Thomas-Clark eventually fled Louisiana, and the U.S. Marshals Service arrested him in San Antonio, Mehrtens said. He had two guns with him, but they have not yet undergone ballistic testing.
Mehrtens said Thomas-Clark denied any involvement in the killing. “He said he was not present at the scene at the time this happened,” the detective testified.
But the photos from Stokes’ phone show otherwise, Nichelle Stokes said Tuesday afternoon, after the hearing.
“I think my son solved his own death,” she said. “He put B-Man right there.”
Magristrate Patricia Joyce found there was enough probable cause to continue holding Thomas-Clark at the parish jail in Gretna on the second-degree murder charge. Bail was previously set at $ 500,000.