Murder Defendant ‘Had to’ Shoot Victim, Defense Says

During opening arguments in a murder trial, the prosecution said a victim made an “offensive” comment and, when he tried to take it back, the defendant shot him. However, the defense says the defendant acted in self-defense.

Andre Becton is charged with first-degree murder while armed and two gun related offenses for his alleged role in the death of 35-year-old Darnell Peoples on the 600 block of Mellon Street, SE in 2016.

The prosecution said March 25 that Peoples was two weeks shy of his 36th birthday when he came across a group of individuals, including Becton, playing a game of dice. Apparently, the individuals were hunched over with their butts out and Peoples, who was high on PCP, a mind-altering drug, made a homophobic comment.

According to the prosecution, Becton, 27, became angry at the comment.  She said Peoples tried to “squash” the issue by giving him a hug, but Becton refused to calm down and instead pulled out a gun and fired. She said Becton fled the scene in a red car. An eyewitness provided the police with part of the license plate number.

The defense offered a different theory, stating that the victim was the aggressor.

Defense attorney Bernadette Armand said Peoples was a drug dealer and was on his way to find crack cocaine for a friend when he ran into the group. Armand said the victim was so high on PCP that he was “belligerent,” “erratic” and “out of control.” She said Peoples approached the group and wouldn’t leave them alone.

Armand said her client had a gun in his waistband for protection but noted that Peoples got in Becton’s face and put his hands on the defendant. She said Becton felt Peoples’ hands on the gun and that’s when a struggle ensued and the gun went off.

The defense said the prosecution’s case relies heavily on the testimony of one eyewitness, the woman who Peoples was getting drugs for. In addition to the drugs, Armand said the witness was diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder and wasn’t taking medication for it. 

Armand said the case is not about whether Becton shot Peoples, but rather why Becton “had to.”

The trial is scheduled to continue on March 26.