Law enforcement and hospital officials converse at a command post set up during an active shooter situation, Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022, at the CHI St. Vincent North in Sherwood, Ark. Authorities have since identified the shooter as Raymond Allen Lovett. Jr. (Image of the hospital: Staci Vandagriff/The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette via AP; mug shot: Pulaski and Perry County Prosecuting Attorney)
Attorneys for Raymond Allen Lovett Jr. 25, said their client didn’t plan on fatally shooting Leighton Delane Whitfield, 21, at an Arkansas hospital last year, but instead of returning a verdict for manslaughter, jurors in that Pulaski County courtroom found him guilty as charged on Thursday of capital murder, according to The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
The defendant was defiant when taking the stand, claiming that the victim escalated the fatal confrontation.
“I am a man of my word and if I tell you, ‘If you stand up, I’ll kill you,’ you had best believe I’m going to kill you,” he reportedly told the court. “He decided not to take me seriously and now he’s dead.”
The incident on Sept. 28, 2022, rocked the CHI (Catholic Health Initiatives) St. Vincent North hospital in Sherwood, a city of north of Little Rock.
“The defendant in this shooting shattered a family and terrorized our community,” Sixth Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney Will Jones said. “While nothing can bring Mr. Whitfield back, I pray his family sleeps better tonight knowing justice has been served.”
It turned out to be an isolated incident. Lovett was under the belief that Whitfield had been abusing Jade Pye, Whitfield’s fiancee, during their two-year relationship. Pye, who was an eyewitness to the shooting, had been in the hospital at the time, with symptoms including a 106-degree fever.
Lovett reportedly claimed to hear rumors of abuse throughout the years, and he claimed Pye had recently told him Whitfield once choked her until she almost passed out. He testified that he loved Pye but denied it being romantic.
Pye was reportedly not asked in court whether Whitfield abused her. She reportedly said that though she had known Lovett for years, she was careful to avoid him. Pye also discussed a necklace she wore, which she said that Lovett had shot off Whitfield during the killing. She testified to wearing it continuously since then.
According to her testimony, she was surprised to see the defendant show up that day. Lovett testified to visiting the hospital room after learning Whitfield had left for work. The victim, however, returned — vehicle problems nixed his day at work.
As testified in court, Lovett stayed but got mostly quiet even though Whitfield and Pye continued to talk. Lovett said that he entered the restroom in an attempt to cool off and decided to leave, but when he went to go, Whitfield gave him a “dirty look.”
Pye said that Lovett told Whitfield he was “lucky” he did not shoot him.
According to her testimony, Lovett said, “‘The only reason I don’t blow your head off right now is because [a friend] told me not to.’”
The men exchanged words and Lovett opened fire.
Lovett testified that he fired on Whitfield after the victim got up to fight him.
“He decided not to take me seriously and now he’s dead,” he said.
He said he shot three times, stopped, then pulled the trigger eight more times. He claimed he could not explain why he had continued.
“Imagine being trapped in your own mind,” he said. “You see what you’re doing but you can’t stop yourself. I don’t know why I shot him so many times. I really don’t.”
The prosecution reportedly pressed Lovett on why he brought his gun in the first place and why he texted his former stepmother in the restroom that he should “kill this boy right now.” He and the former stepmother, Cynthia “Cindy” Lovett, both testified that he routinely carried firearms.
Lovett testified that he did not care if jurors believed his version of events.
“I just want them to know because it’s the truth,” he said.
Lovett received a sentence of life plus 15 years on a firearm enhancement, prosecutors said.
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