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Jury finds David Ware guilty on all counts

Posted at 10:12 AM, Apr 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-25 10:50:49-04

TULSA, Okla. — Update:
The jury finds David Ware guilty on all counts:

  • Murder in the 1st Degree
  • Shooting with intent to kill
  • Possession of a firearm after a felony conviction
  • Possession of a drug with intent to distribute
  • Obstructing an officer

Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum gave a statement following the verdict:

“A verdict can’t bring Sergeant Johnson back, or erase what Officer Zarkeshan has endured. It doesn’t compensate for the pain experienced by their families and fellow officers, or for the loss to our community. But I am grateful for the jury’s wisdom in rendering it, and for the masterful prosecution of the case by District Attorney Kunzweiler and his team. I ask all my fellow Tulsans who see a law enforcement officer in the days ahead to please tell them how thankful you are for all they and their loved ones risk to keep you safe.”

The jury has reached a verdict in the David Ware trial. The jury began deliberations late Friday in the trial for David Ware.

Ware is accused of shooting Tulsa Police Sgt. Craig Johnson and Officer Aurash Zarkeshan during a June 2020 traffic stop. Johnson died in the shooting and Zarkeshan went through several months of treatment and rehabilitation due to his injuries.

>> See timeline of the events that led to this trial

Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler and Assistant District Attorney Kevin Gray are prosecuting the case against Ware who is represented by veteran attorneys Kevin Adams and Robert Gifford. The state is seeking the death penalty if Ware is convicted while his defense team is aiming to prove their client acted in self-defense.

Ware is charged with first-degree murder, shooting with intent to kill, possession of a controlled drug with intent to distribute (heroin or meth) and obstructing an officer (misdemeanor).

2 News Oklahoma has a reporter in the courtroom to track updates from the trial:

Friday, April 22

5:29 p.m.
LaFortune asks jury to leave for deliberations.

4:44 p.m.
Adams finishes his argument. Gray begins the state's response.

Gray argued that it's a good thing for police officers to be proactive in looking for potential criminals overnight. "I don't see it as a bad thing," he said.

"Watching those videos is one of the worst things you'll ever do in your life," Gray said to the jurors.

Gray starts breaking down the points from Adams's closing arguments.

"Sgt. Johnson was nice," Gray said. "He didn't speak, he listened."

Gray said officers gave Ware 50 chances to comply before using force. He called Ware "defiant."

"The person who caused the nightmare is sitting in a suit and tie over there," Gray said pointing at Ware.

Gray said it makes no sense to say that Johnson would have told Zarkeshan to turn his body camera off. He said Ware "went nuclear" when the officers said they were going to tow his car.

3:40 p.m.
Court resumes. Adams begins closing arguments for the defense.

Adams prefaced his arguments by saying its the biggest case of his and Ware's lives, and that he felt personally attacked by the state because of the way he talks.

Adams said that Zarkeshan didn't like the looks of Ware from the beginning of the traffic stop, and that that's what Johnson would've taught him.

Adams repeated the point he asked several witnesses throughout testimony: The truth is in the video. He reminded the jury that it's up to them to determine credibility.

Adams repeatedly said that the officers mistreated Ware before the shooting.

"All lives matter, and you should support law enforcement — when they're upholding the Constitution of the United States," Adams said. He accused Johnson and Zarkeshan of being bad officers who make good officers look bad.

Adams said the officers are afraid of the truth which is why they didn't watch the videos and accused some of them of lying during testimony.

"Just because someone swears to tell the truth doesn't mean they're going to do it," Adams said.

Adams said the video proves that Ware didn't shoot the officers with intent to kill and that the state didn't prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt.

3:16 p.m.
Adams asks for a break before his closing argument. LaFortune asks jury to return at 3:30 p.m.

2:15 p.m.
Kunzweiler begins closing arguments for the state.

Kunzweiler called Ware an "obstructionist," felon and drug dealer. He pointed out that Ware admitted to lying to officers during the traffic stop.

"He's an admitted liar," Kunzweiler said. He repeatedly pointed out that Ware is already a two-time, convicted felon.

Kunzweiler, critical of Adams, said sometimes he didn't understand what was going on in this trial when the defense was trying to make its case.

Kunzweiler continued to question why Adams would suggest the possibility that Zarkeshan could have shot Johnson at some point. Ware told Gray during his testimony that he shot Johnson.

Kunzweiler reminded the jury they have a right to take Ware's run-in with Johnson in 2006 into consideration.

"He's a murderer," Kunzweiler said.

Kunzweiler reread parts of LaFortune's instructions for the jury.

Kunzweiler criticized Ware's explanation of only aiming for the body armor of the officers, calling it "ridiculous."

1:40 p.m.
Court resumes. LaFortune gives jurors instructions.

12 p.m.
LaFortune ruled that the defense did not provide sufficient evidence for the jury to consider a self-defense argument for Ware. Jurors won't be allowed to consider a lesser charge than First-Degree Murder.

10:01 a.m.
LaFortune tells jurors to return at 1:25 p.m. as he goes over jury instructions with the prosecutors and defense.

9:33 a.m.
Court resumes. Prosecutors will present one rebuttal witness in response to Ware's testimony.

State calls Jennifer Richert to testify. Richert, a former police officer who worked at the Tulsa Police Department for nearly 11 years.

Richert worked as an officer alongside Johnson. She started crying on the stand as soon as Kunzweiler mentioned him during her testimony.

Richert said she and Johnson responded to a public intoxication at a Tulsa apartment complex on June 13, 2006. Richert said they found Ware and determined they would arrest him, ordering a prisoner transport van to take him safely.

Richert said she saw Ware kicking at Johnson and spitting at him while on the ground in handcuffs. She said they told him to stop and warned him that he would pepper spray him if he didn't correct his behavior. Johnson eventually sprayed him.

Richert said Ware threatened to kill Johnson. She said she didn't remember anything resembling Johnson beating Ware up. "That wasn't like Craig [Johnson]," Richert said.

Richert told Adams she hasn't and didn't want to watch the shooting video. Adams showed her a photo from the 2020 traffic stop that showed Johnson getting physical with Ware.

Richert excused.

Thursday, April 21

5:58 p.m.
Ware dismissed. Defense rests case. Court in recess until 9:30 Friday morning.

4:42 p.m.
Court resumes. Gray starts cross-examination of Ware.

Ware told Gray the list of names and money amounts found in his apartment was a list of some people who owed him for drugs.

Ware said he didn't tell Zarkeshan about the gun in his car because he didn't want to incriminate himself.

Gray asked Ware if he agreed with Adams that the truth lies in those videos despite the fact that Ware admitted to lying to Zarkeshan during the traffic stop. Ware repeated that the truth is in the videos.

Ware said he didn't know if he could have gotten his car registered properly earlier. He said he couldn't remember when he had the money to pay for it or when the tag agencies were open.

Ware agreed with Gray that if Ware would've willingly stepped out of the car that day that they wouldn't be here in court today. Gray said the officers told him to get out
of the car 63 times.

Ware said he's watched the videos from the incident several times over the last two years.

Ware said he was defending himself against two armed men with body armor. He said he was scared of being handcuffed and assaulted more if he got on the ground.

"I knew they weren't doing what they're supposed to do," Ware said. Ware said the video was missing the part he says would've heard Johnson tell Zarkeshan to turn his body camera video off.

He repeated that he didn't intend to kill Johnson when he shot him.

Ware said when he was brought to jail, he told a deputy who asked what he was there for that he was there for murder because that's what the officers who brought him there told him. He disputed the testimony from that deputy who said that Ware told her that he thought one of the officers would die.

Ware said he remembered spitting on Johnson in a 2006 incident he'd get arrested for. He said Johnson beat him up. Ware said he wouldn't know how to report if an officer committed misconduct.

4:22 p.m.
Court breaks before prosecutor cross-examination.

2:37 p.m.
Court resumes. The defense calls Ware to the stand as its first witness.

"Because I was in fear for my life and I felt like they were violating my rights," Ware said when asked by Adams why he shot Johnson. He said he heard Johnson tell Zarkeshan to turn his body camera off during the struggle that came before the shooting.

Adams asked Judge LaFortune to read the count against Ware that charges him with possessing a gun after a former conviction of a felony. LaFortune hadn't read the charge to jurors before because of its lack of relevance to their pending decision in the murder case against Ware. Ware admitted he's guilty of that charge for having the gun after he'd been convicted of a previous, unrelated burglary.

Ware said he couldn't get an updated license plate tag, but that he still had time to get it renewed when Zarkeshan pulled him over the morning of the shooting.

Adams showed jurors video of Ware at the Hard Rock Casino the night before the shooting. Ware said at some point when he showed his driver's license to collect jackpot winnings at the casino, the license was left behind.

Ware said the first time he watched Zarkeshan's dash camera video was in jail when Adams showed it to him. Ware said Adams told him that reports said Ware stood over Johnson when he shot him. Ware denied it and said people should see the video.

Adams showed part of Zarkeshan's body camera video and talked with Ware about his interaction with the officer at the beginning of the traffic stop. Ware said he didn't have any warrants out at the time, but that he lied to Zarkeshan when he asked if there were drugs in his car.

Ware said officers never told him he was under arrest and that they wanted to tow his car illegally.

Ware said he was scared the pepper spray used on him would trigger his asthma. "I didn't want to die," Ware told Adams.

He said he didn't tell Hall to dump the gun used in the shooting and that he didn't know how it got where police found it. Ware said he didn't pull the gun to kill someone. He said he meant to shoot Johnson in his body armor.

"I feel terrible," Ware said when asked how he felt about killing Johnson. "I'm sorry, really sorry," he said.

2:06 p.m.
The state rested its case. Ware agreed to testify. Court will take short break.

1:47 p.m.
Court resumes. Jury is shown Sires's body camera video which shows as Sires pulls up to the scene of the shooting and asks Zarkeshan who did it. Zarkeshan responded saying it was David Ware.

12:16 p.m.
Court breaks for lunch

11:55 a.m.
State calls its 20th witness, Tulsa Police Officer Rage Staggs, who's been with the department for about five years. He responded to the call about the shooting and was one of the first officers on the scene.

Staggs, a registered EMT, grabbed a medical kit and started trying to find out the extent of Johnson's injuries. "It was chaos," Staggs said of the efforts to try to treat Johnson at the scene.

Staggs helped load Johnson into the Oklahoma Highway Patrol car. They only drove a short time before an ambulance pulled up and loaded Johnson up to take him to a hospital.

He'd only seen a few seconds of his body camera video to verify it was his. He told Gray he did not want to watch any of the videos.

11:24 a.m.
Court resumes. State calls its 19th witness, Tulsa Police Officer Kurth Sires who's worked in the department for about five years. Zarkeshan had been working with his unit for a few weeks. Johnson was his supervisor.

Sires said officers almost put Zarkeshan in a patrol car after the shooting before paramedics arrived to care for him.

Sires said he found Ware's wallet and found his name on a card. He found a past booking photo for Ware which was used as officers were on the lookout for him. He hasn't seen more than a few seconds of the shooting video.

Adams said Leatherman wrote in a report that Sires found Ware's license at the scene, but Adams says Ware had left it at the Hard Rock Casino. Sires said whatever is in the notes is correct. Sires searched Ware's car without a warrant because it was part of the search for a suspected shooter.

11:02 a.m.
Court on short break.

10:48 a.m.
State calls its 18th witness, Tulsa Police Officer Jose Sanchez, who graduated from the same police academy class as Zarkeshan and responded to the radio call after the shooting.

Sanchez testified that he saw Zarkeshan bleeding from his forehead and Zarkeshan managed to tell them that David Ware is who hurt them. Sanchez was assigned to track who came in and out of the crime scene.

Adams again asked the witness if he thought the video from the traffic stop showed the truth about what happened. Sanchez agreed but said he hadn't seen any of the video.

10:20 a.m.
State calls its 17th witness, Tulsa Police Officer Michelle Sanchez who served on Zarkeshan's squad at the time of the shooting. Sanchez responded to the scene as soon as he came on the radio calling for backup,

She found both officers on the ground after the shooting and guarded them until more help could get there. She said officers determined they couldn't wait for paramedics and took Johnson in an Oklahoma Highway Patrol car. An ambulance pulled up shortly later to take him the rest of the way.

The state showed jurors Sanchez's body camera video which she had only seen part of before Thursday.

Adams asked Sanchez similar questions about the body camera video as he did to Zarkeshan, questioning whether they would want to see the truth of what happened that morning.

9:30 a.m.
Court resumes. State calls its 16th witness, Tulsa Police Officer Aurash Zarkeshan who survived the shooting and went through several months of rehab before returning to work at TPD.

Zarkeshan was considered a rookie officer at the time of the shooting. Johnson served as his supervisor.

Zarkeshan said he hasn't seen any of the body or dash camera video from the shooting and doesn't want to. He told Gray that he has no memory of the traffic stop or shooting and doesn't remember anything until he was taken to an airport to fly to Colorado for treatment for a traumatic brain injury. He'd been shot three times, including once right above his right eye. Gray had him stand up and show the jury where he'd been shot.

"I remember my left foot had severe nerve pain from one of the bullets," Zarkeshan said. He said he's still struggling with movement in his foot and has some struggles with speech.

Adams asked Zarkeshan if because he hadn't watched the video if he would want to know if he might have done something against department policy during the traffic stop.

"I don't want to watch the video," Zarkeshan said in response to multiple attempts to ask if he'd want to know what happened that morning.

Wednesday, April 20

4:45 p.m.
Leatherman dismissed. State called its 15th witness, Tulsa County Sheriff's Office Deputy Kyra O'Neill who's been with the sheriff's office for more than four years.

O'Neill used to work at the jail and helped process Ware. She testified that someone asked Ware what he was in jail for and he said "murder" despite the fact that Johnson hadn't died yet. "I'm pretty sure one of them is going to die," O'Neill says Ware told them.

Adams asked if the video of Ware's booking was saved but she said she didn't know.

She was dismissed and court is in recess until Thursday morning.

3:45 p.m.
The state called its 14th witness, Tulsa Police Homicide Detective Ronnie Leatherman. He's worked with the department for 22 years.

Leatherman got a warrant to go through Ware's Facebook records. Ware had a conversation on Facebook about guns with Jacob Garland who supplied the weapon that Ware allegedly used in the shooting.

3:20 p.m.
Court resumes. State calls 13th witness, Tulsa Police Department lab technician Jason McGinnis, a forensic scientist who's worked with the department for nine years.

McGinnis tested and identified substances found in Ware's apartment including heroin, LSD and methamphetamine. The defense didn't ask McGinnis any questions.

3 p.m.
Farrell dismissed. Court on short break.

2:05 p.m.
State calls its 12th witness, Tulsa Homicide Detective Matt Farrell, a 22-year veteran in the department.

On the day of the shooting, Farrell was tasked with taking photos of the evidence found in Ware's apartment. Prosecutors had Farrell go through a box of evidence along with the photos he took to describe drugs, drug paraphernalia and other items found in the apartment.

1:36 p.m.
Court resumes. State calls its 11th witness, Tulsa Police Homicide Detective Jeffrey Gatwood who has 30 years of experience in the department.

Gatwood wrote the search warrants that included Ware's apartment in east Tulsa. He said they found a list in the apartment with a list of names, grams and money owed. Gatwood told Adams they found Suboxone in the apartment which is used to treat drug dependency.

12 p.m.
Warren dismissed. Court breaks for lunch until 1:30 p.m.

11:50 a.m.
The state calls its 10th witness, Tulsa Homicide Detective Reggie Warren, who is a 26-year veteran of the department.

Warren described the process of taking Hall out to an area near Haskell to find the gun believed to have been used in the shooting. Adams asked if Warren's investigation had determined if Ware had anything to do with getting rid of the gun. Warren said that's correct.

11:24 a.m.
Court resumes. State calls its ninth witness, Tulsa Police Homicide Detective Jason White, a 23-year veteran of the department.

White says he received a call about the shooting and went to St. Francis early that morning. He stayed at the hospital most of that day and spent the following day looking for the gun used in the shooting.

Matthew Hall, who is serving a prison sentence for helping Ware get away from the scene of the shooting, told police about where the gun was. White went to a rural area near Haskell to find it.

10:58 a.m.
Court calls for short recess.

10:30 a.m.
The state calls its eighth witness, Dr. Joshua Lanter, a state medical examiner with 14 years at his position in Tulsa.

Lanter described the autopsy process and examination for Johnson who died after being hit with four gunshots. He determines the cause of death and manner of death which was homicide in Johnson's case.

Court dismisses Lanter.

10:14 a.m.
Gray asks Peiffer about how body cameras operate including the possibility that mute or off buttons could be unintentionally pushed during a confrontation like the one in the lead-up to the shooting. Peiffer was responsible for uploading the videos of the shooting from the cameras to their server. He said there is no indication that any of the videos were altered from their original form.

9:30 a.m.
Court resumes. Peiffer returns to the stand as jurors are shown Zarkeshan's body camera video from the traffic stop.

Tuesday, April 19

4:42 p.m.
Jury excused after watching Zarkeshan's dash camera video. Court will resume Wednesday at 9:30 a.m.

3:45 p.m.
Court resumes with the state calling its seventh witness, Tulsa Police Lt. Alex Peiffer, who is an 11-year veteran who works with the department's body and dash camera video.

The jury is shown Zarkeshan's dash camera video for the first time.

3:24 p.m.
Court taking a short break.

2:34 p.m.
The state called its sixth witness, Mark Sole, a consultant who worked at the Tulsa Police Department for more than 20 years before retiring in 2021.

Sole worked in the Major Crimes Unit at the time of the shooting and got to the scene when officers were still treating Zarkeshan. He said the scene was chaotic when he got there and that it's possible the emergency response after this shooting could alter the crime scene from its original state.

2:09 p.m.
The state called its fifth witness, Tulsa Police Homicide Detective Lt. Brandon Watkins. Watkins has been with the department for nearly 25 years.

He was sleeping when he got the call about the shooting and came out to talk to supervisors at the scene about what happened. Watkins said video shows Ware identifying himself, the confrontation and the shooting. He admitted an affidavit he wrote about the shooting that said that Ware stood over Johnson and shot him was inaccurate
but based on what officers who'd seen the dash camera video told him at the time.

1:33 p.m.
Court resumes with the state's fourth witness Tulsa Police Sgt. Benjamin Elliott who worked in the Major Crimes Unit at the time of the shooting, and is now in the traffic division. Elliott has been with the department for 11 years and Johnson acted as a "mentor" to him.

He drove to St. Francis Hospital after the shooting where he had to take pictures and later go through Zarkeshan's dash camera video to see who shot him.

During the cross-examination, Elliot agreed with Adams that the truth in the case is in the body and dash camera videos.

11:58 a.m.
Court breaks for lunch.

11:20 a.m.
Court resumes with Adams's cross-examination of Campbell, cycling through more of the evidence and photos from the scene. Adams asked Campbell about the drugs found in Ware's car in relation to the charge for possession with intent to distribute.

11 a.m.
Court takes a 20-minute break before allowing Adams to question Campbell.

9:30 a.m.
Court resumes with the state's third witness Tulsa Police Sgt. Joe Campbell, a crime scene detective supervisor with 23 years of experience with the department.

Campbell did the major crimes report on the shooting, showing up at the scene after Johnson and Zareshan had been taken to the hospital.

Kunzweiler had Campbell spend almost two hours reviewing evidence and body camera video from the investigation, including the blood and spatter stains seen in some of the still photos. Campbell also said casings found at the scene matched the bullets found in Ware's backpack inside his car.

Monday, April 18

5:28 p.m.
Court in recess until Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. Stoltz testified for about three hours to go over photos and evidence from the crime scene.

1:58 p.m.
The state called its second witness Tulsa Police Major Crimes Unit Detective Stephen Stoltz, a 24-year veteran of the police department.

Stoltz wasn't working that morning but got called about it after the shooting. Stoltz began crying on the stand as he talked about Johnson getting shot who he'd known for 16 years. Stoltz came out to the scene where an officer handed him Zarkeshan's vest and gun belt and the gun hadn't been drawn.

He went on to describe more than 100 photos from the crime scene.

1:34 p.m.
The state called Tulsa Police Officer William McAllister to give witness testimony. McAllister has been an officer for five years.

McAllister said he was working at the time of the traffic stop and heard part of the radio call and responded once paramedics were called, but staged originally away from the scene before following a supervisor. He helped to mark evidence once getting to scene of the shooting. He told Adams during the defende's cross-examination that he wasn't aware of claims that Ware's license was found at the scene.

1:32 p.m.
Court resumes. Jury is seated for witness testimony. Judge LaFortune sequestered witnesses in this case.

11:47 a.m.
Opening statements concluded. Court breaks for lunch.

10:52 a.m.
Adams begins his opening statement in the defense of David Ware, saying Ware indeed shot the two officers, but that he was "in fear for his life." Adams says Ware was having a bad week and that Johnson and Zarkeshan "treated him like a dog" during the traffic stop from the beginning.

Adams says this case is about two officers who had no legal right to tow Ware's car.

10:18 a.m.
Gray begins his opening statement for the state, talking about the officers' backgrounds, Ware's night before the traffic stop and a verbal description of the body camera video Tulsa police released showing the shooting of the two officers.

“Monday, June 29 was a real bad day," Gray said. "It didn’t have to start that way and it didn’t have to end that way.”

10:09 a.m.
Jurors enter the courtroom to be sworn in. The jury is made up of nine men and three women. District Judge Bill LaFortune is presiding over the trial.

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