William West and Jonathan Carson pleaded guilty to felony false statements and misdemeanor involuntary manslaughter, fighting in a public space, false report of a crime, battery and simple battery.
Judge Jack Niedrach sentenced Carson and West to consecutive sentences from the various charges totaling 10 years with two to serve in prison. The two-year sentence will be suspended upon completion of a boot camp program. The remaining eight years will be served on probation.
The two men were with 16-year-old Tymurius Elkins early Feb. 20 when they attacked Ricky Cruz in a West Rome parking lot after hours, police said. During the fight Cruz fatally stabbed Elkins.
A Floyd County grand jury chose not to indict Cruz, who prosecutors say fatally stabbed Elkins after being provoked.
According to District Attorney Leigh Patterson and Assistant District Attorney Emily Johnson:
Cruz and his younger brother had been walking from a family member’s house after a barbecue in the early morning hours of Feb. 20.
West, Carson and Elkins were driving down Shorter Avenue and West, who was driving, honked at Cruz. Heated words were exchanged as they passed and West turned the car around.
As the car turned around Cruz asked if his little brother “had anything on him”, Johnson said. His brother, who was a juvenile, had a knife with a three-inch blade and gave it to Cruz.
Several security cameras at Bruster’s ice cream shop recorded the latter part of the incident.
Cruz and his younger brother are shown walking by the store as a car, driven by West, pulls up. Johnson said the video showed Elkins had already gotten out of the car. Cruz’s younger brother fled the area.
Elkins, West and Carson approach Cruz who can be seen walking backward waving a knife at the men as they go out of one camera’s coverage.
“He told them all along he had a knife,” Patterson said.
What can’t be seen at this time was filled in with testimony from Carson and Cruz, Johnson said, as well as physical evidence.
Carson, West and Elkins attacked Cruz and began beating him. Cruz sustained a head wound from his own knife as he put his arms up to defend himself.
At one point Cruz lashed out and stabbed West, injuring him several times.
The video again corroborates testimony, a man who Johnson identified as West can be seen fleeing the location of the stabbing as well as another man identified as Carson.
Two men enter another camera’s coverage area. A larger man, who Johnson identified as Elkins, is repeatedly striking another much smaller man, who Johnson identified as Cruz.
Cruz fought back with the knife and Elkins received a fatal wound.
Elkins fled the scene, his steps getting slower and slower as he approached the car. West and Carson were already inside the car and initially left Elkins then returned to pick him up.
West primarily had superficial injuries except for one wound that collapsed his lung.
At the time, Carson was on probation. West dropped him off nearby and went to the hospital with a story that they’d been robbed by several Hispanic men, Johnson said.
Carson went home after being dropped off but detectives found out he was involved and spoke with him as well.
Carson’s and West’s stories matched, until authorities gained access to the security video provided by Bruster’s in West Rome, where the stabbing occurred.
Police questioned Carson a second time, confronting him with the video evidence.
He admitted that he, West and Elkins traded words with Cruz and turned the car around to confront him.
Elkins had gotten out of the car and all three men confronted Cruz and attacked him.
Eventually, West also admitted his part in the incident.
There were several opportunities, Johnson said, for these kids to keep the entire incident from happening — West could have kept on driving, Carson could have not started the argument, Cruz could have tried to run away.
“We all make our own choices and we are responsible for the consequences of our choices,” Johnson said.
Carson has been in jail since being arrested after the incident. West was taken into custody after pleading guilty.
“What happened out there that night was tragic and my client is glad it’s behind him and he is ready to move forward,” said Attorney Chris Twyman, who represented Carson.
Calls to West’s attorney were not returned on Monday.
Click to see a copy of the indictment and sentencing documents.