Jury finds Eastpointe man guilty of voluntary manslaughter

Defense argues that shooting was in self-defense

By: Kevin Bunch | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published March 20, 2015

 Eastpointe resident Noland Brown sits during the opening statements of his trial March 19 in Macomb County Circuit Court.

Eastpointe resident Noland Brown sits during the opening statements of his trial March 19 in Macomb County Circuit Court.

Photo by Deb Jacques

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MOUNT CLEMENS — Eastpointe resident Noland Brown stood trial March 18-20 in Macomb County Circuit Court for the shooting death of his neighbor, Deryl Bohannon, on June 4, 2014.


The jury found Brown guilty of voluntary manslaughter, a lesser charge than the second-degree murder charge that the prosecution had sought, as well as felony firearm. Brown's sentencing has been scheduled for April 29; he is currently being held in the Macomb County Jail.


According to Brown in a recording made June 5, 2014, at the Eastpointe Police Department — Brown did not take the stand in the trial — Bohannon owed Brown $100, and Brown allegedly called Bohannon’s house the morning of June 4 and spoke to Bohannon’s niece, Amber Bohannon, about the money.


Later that day, he said, he confronted Bohannon in the driveway between their houses. Bohannon allegedly pulled a knife during a heated argument. Brown said he fell down while backing away — scraping his arm in the process — and, fearing for his life, shot Bohannon in the leg with a single-shot Derringer pistol.


Bohannon started bleeding profusely, Brown said, adding that he tried to make a tourniquet from his belt but could not find the bullet wound. Brown had gone back into his house to get a pillow for his neighbor when police arrived and took Brown into custody. Bohannon was transported to St. John’s Hospital in Detroit, where he was pronounced dead.


Police found a stick — which Brown said was for self-defense — on Brown’s person, as well as a couple extra bullets in his sock. Brown, a concealed weapons permit holder, also had a leather holster, but his gun was not on him at the time he was taken into custody. The gun was later found on top of the television in Brown’s living room.


Brown said in the video that he and Bohannon were friends and that Brown would do favors for Bohannon, like loaning him money or getting him groceries, and Brown brought Bohannon over to Brown’s mother’s home.


“That guy, Deryl, I love him,” Brown said. “I just wanted to help him out.”


Neither Assistant Prosecutor John Hunt nor defense attorney Dan Garon disputed that Brown shot Bohannon, but Garon argued that it was done in self-defense.


Garon said that Bohannon had bipolar disorder and paranoid schizophrenia and that his sister acted as his caretaker. After medical issues put her in the hospital, her daughter, Amber Bohannon, filled in with the caretaking duties for her uncle.


She said she remembered Brown calling that morning, though their accounts of that conversation differed. Brown said she mentioned that Deryl Bohannon had been on “a binge” the previous night and probably did not have much money left, and that she would confront him about it.


Amber Bohannon said she did not recall any of that, but rather that Brown made a cryptic remark about wanting his money back.


“I got a phone call from Mr. Brown that morning saying my uncle owed him some money and that he wanted the money, and he didn’t want to go back to his old ways,” she said.


Brown said in the video that he then talked with his cousin on a cordless phone in his backyard about money woes when he heard Bohannon approaching. Brown said that Bohannon was yelling and cursing. Brown said he then saw Bohannon approaching with groceries and a cane.


Garon argued that Bohannon periodically would make threatening remarks to people or pull knives on them. He presented a police report from 2012 where Bohannon made threatening remarks to a postal worker, and Garon had Bohannon’s nephew, Dmytri Bohannon, testify that his uncle had pulled a knife on him during an argument once, though the nephew added that he still trusted his uncle and did not expect him actually to attack. Garon added that Brown himself had said that Bohannon had pulled knives on him before.


Hunt said Brown’s order of events on the video about how he and Bohannon started arguing was muddled, and Hunt argued that Brown started asking for Bohannon’s money. Brown said he threw a garbage can at Bohannon, who knocked it back at Brown.


Bohannon’s other neighbor, Michale Campos, said that he could overhear them arguing about money, that there was a commotion with a noise before hearing one of them asking if the other was going to shoot him. Shortly afterward, Campos said, he heard a gunshot and a woman — whom Hunt identified as Brown’s wife — asking why the shooter did what he did.


Brown said Bohannon had pulled a knife on him when he moved to leave the situation. He said his wife yelled something to him and he turned around, seeing Bohannon approaching with a knife and cane, at which point Brown said he fell over and fired.


Several responding police officers — Patrick Connor, Kelly Shock, Steven Sellers and Matthew Merlo — reported that they found Bohannon bleeding in the driveway. Merlo said the autopsy report found the bullet entered at Bohannon’s upper thigh, going left to right and traveling at a slight downward trajectory before exiting the left buttock.


Hunt said that autopsy report, along with the conflicting accounts, called into question Brown’s story of events, and that while he may be remorseful over Bohannon’s death, he did not fire in self-defense.


“How can you have a slightly downward trajectory from the ground?” Hunt said. “Mark Twain once said, ‘If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.’ Brown didn’t tell the truth here, and the verdict should mirror that.”


Hunt added that the 911 call from Brown’s wife said Bohannon was alone in the driveway and that she did not know who shot him, though Brown’s testimony on the video put her on-site.


Garon did not argue that there were a lot of perceptions of the events, but he said that in the heat of the moment, the brain takes over and does what it feels it needs to do to survive. He said CPL holders do not have to train regularly like police or military personnel, and with Brown’s “fight-or-flight” instinct, his client did what he felt he had to do to survive.


Garon said the only important part of the discussion came when Bohannon pulled out a knife, and everything outside of that is irrelevant.


“The crime starts when Mr. Bohannon pulls out a knife, which is consistent with his prior history, and comes toward Mr. Brown,” Garon said to the jury. “That’s where we begin, and everything else before that I don’t care about because its not relevant to the decision you need to make.”

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