A Tulsa woman will face the possibility of a jury trial after a judge found probable cause to believe she committed murder when she shot a man after an argument at an Arby’s restaurant where she worked as a manager.
Prosecutors on April 2 charged Deionna Young with fatally shooting 25-year-old Desean Tallent, a customer at Arby’s near 41st Street and Garnett Road, while following his vehicle as he left the restaurant on March 23. Tallent subsequently crashed his SUV into a Walmart Neighborhood Market about a mile north of the Arby’s and was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital that evening.
Special Judge Anthony Miller determined Monday morning that there was sufficient evidence to send Young to a trial court on a first-degree murder charge, prompting her to sob loudly in the courtroom.
“She cried to try to get sympathy, but it doesn’t help. It doesn’t change what happened to him,” Diashay Brackeen, a relative of Tallent’s, said through tears after Monday’s preliminary hearing. “He’s still not here. His kids are still missing out on part of their life because of this situation.”
Tulsa Police Detective Ronnie Leatherman, the sole witness, testified that Young told him Tallent spit on her during an argument inside the restaurant after “screaming and cussing” at staff members from the drive-thru area. He said Young told him Tallent was upset about receiving the wrong drink with his order and was still unhappy after receiving a refund.
Leatherman said Young told him she followed his SUV after he left so she could obtain his license plate number, which she provided in a police report she made on March 23 about the altercation.
But Tallent, according to Leatherman, returned to the drive-thru within an hour after the argument, prompting Young — who by then was back at Arby’s — to follow his vehicle again.
“She said she was scared and took a gun and fired one shot in Mr. Tallent’s direction,” he said, adding that the collision at Walmart occurred within a few minutes of Tallent leaving Arby’s for the second time.
“It just made sense to me that she would have been the shooter based on that time frame,” Leatherman said.
He told Assistant District Attorney Kevin Gray that Young said she thought she “made her point” by firing a single shot in Tallent’s direction. However, he said the bullet hole police found on Tallent’s vehicle was about 2 inches up from the bottom of his driver’s side window.
During Young’s second police interview, Leatherman said she told him she used a .45-caliber gun to shoot Tallent. Leatherman told Gray that Young said she disassembled the gun after the shooting so she could scatter its parts at an apartment complex where she used to live and in a drainage ditch near her current residence.
Young’s attorney, Wes Johnson, said police reports about the shooting indicate that Tallent’s family told detectives he regularly carried a gun. He also said at least one other witness saw Tallent reaching for something in his SUV.
Johnson referred to Tallent as “a gun thug” who has “quite a record” and alleged he stuck his arm out of his window in a threatening manner, which was why Young fired her gun. The comment drew backlash from Tallent’s family members and from Gray, who said there was no evidence to suggest Young had any knowledge of Tallent’s legal history at the time she shot him.
Leatherman, in his testimony, said investigators did not recover a gun in Tallent’s SUV or find one concealed in his clothing.
“She made comments that she didn’t see a gun (in Tallent’s hand) and she should have waited,” he told Johnson.
Tallent’s mother, Lori Tallent, said after Monday’s hearing that “It was very upsetting to hear (Johnson) try to bring up his past and label him as a ‘gun-toting thug.’ He didn’t have a gun.”
Gray said he believed Johnson’s comments about Tallent’s background were “inappropriate” and irrelevant to the circumstances of the homicide. Johnson, in arguing for the charge to be dismissed, said Leatherman gave no indication that Young acted with malice during the shooting.
“Clearly, I think the judge found that when somebody grabs a gun and follows somebody in a car and shoots in that car and kills them, then that meets the state’s burden” for the legal elements of first-degree murder, Gray said.
Young will next appear in court Monday before District Judge Dawn Moody.
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