The North Augusta gun store owner who shot and killed one of three men who crashed a stolen van into his business during a 2012 robbery attempt testified before an Aiken County jury on Tuesday.
Franklin Robinson and Eddie Stewart are on trial for charges of grand larceny, first-degree burglary and possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime. They, along with a third man, allegedly stole a van from a North Augusta church and drove it into the Guns and Ammo Gunsmith on Edgefield Road at about 4 a.m. on Aug. 9, 2012.
Store owner Stephen Bayazes Jr., who lives in an apartment behind the store, opened fire on the suspects, injuring two of them and killing a third suspect, K’Raven Goodwin.
Bayazes told jurors he was asleep in the early hours of Aug. 9, 2012, when “the loudest crash you ever heard in your life” woke him at 3:45 a.m. The store’s silent alarm was going off, and he heard loud noises and glass breaking in the store area.
Bayazes explained that the building is divided into three parts: the gun store, a large garage area next to the store separated by “freezer flaps” and living quarters on the other side of the garage where he lives with his wife. After hearing the noise, he testified that he grabbed an AR-15 rifle and made his way to the freezer flaps.
After peeking through the flaps, Bayazes testified that he saw three silhouettes in the darkness, and heard one of the suspects say, “There’s a man – shoot the (expletive),” followed by what he said was the sound of an AK-47 cocking. Bayazes said he then opened fire on the suspects, firing 30 rounds from the rifle before retreating.
Before going to get another magazine and the pair of pants his wife was handing him, Bayazes told the jury he saw the van pull out of the store with insulation stuck to it and make a left turn onto U.S. 25. He told jurors he grabbed a cordless phone and called 911, and stayed on the phone with the dispatcher as he walked through the rubble in his store created by the crash.
“I saw a person on the ground, rolling back and forth,” he said. “I couldn’t see his hands – he was laying on his hands.”
Bayazes said he asked the man, later identified as Goodwin, where he “was meeting his buddies” and where his guns were. Law enforcement arrived shortly after.
While emergency crews tended to Goodwin, Bayazes went back into the living quarters behind his store, he said. He testified that the coroner then came back and told him Goodwin had died.
“I started crying,” after the coroner told him the news, he told the jurors.
The remaining suspects, Robinson and Stewart, allegedly fled to a Waffle House just off I-20, where they sought emergency help for their gunshot wounds. They both were transported to area hospitals.
Bayazes said they’d made off with more than $37,000 in weapons. The crash left a hole 20-feet-wide and 10-feet-tall in the store’s wall.
“A gun shop is kind of like an ice cream store – kind of an attractive nuisance for some people and kids,” Deputy Solicitor Bill Weeks said during opening statements. “For these men, it was more than an attractive nuisance. It was worth giving their life for.”
Defense attorney Michael Chesser, who is representing Stewart, told jurors the case isn’t “as simple” as the prosecution made out.
“Ultimately, you’re going to be asked to decide if this business was a business or if it was a dwelling,” he said. He also said Bayazes “executed” Goodwin.
“Mr. Bayazes administered his execution right there, right in the middle of those refrigerator flaps” he said. “This massacre – the state is attempting to mask it with the argument that this business was a home.”
Attorney Michael Routzong, who is representing Robinson, also called the incident a massacre, and said Bayazes “very carefully and intentionally shot three people.” He emphasized the importance of presumption of innocence to jurors.
Jurors also saw pictures from the store and listened to part of the 911 call Bayazes made the night of the robbery. The state is expected to continue calling witnesses today at 9:30 a.m.
Deputy Solicitor Beth Ann Young is also prosecuting the case. Circuit Court Judge Doyet “Jack” Early is presiding.
Teddy Kulmala covers the crime and courts beat for the Aiken Standard.