Prosecutor: ‘It was a cold-blooded murder for a car-jacking’

J’uan Holloway is escorted into the courtroom for his preliminary hearing on Tuesday, July 19, 2016, in Gulfport. Holloway is charged with capital murder in the death of 19-year-old Raymond Howze III.
J’uan Holloway is escorted into the courtroom for his preliminary hearing on Tuesday, July 19, 2016, in Gulfport. Holloway is charged with capital murder in the death of 19-year-old Raymond Howze III.

A college student just happened to be the one walking out of a convenience store when D’Juan Holloway gunned him down and stole his car, according to court testimony.

Surveillance pictures submitted as evidence Tuesday in the 2014 carjacking and fatal shooting show a woman opened the door for 19-year-old Raymond Howze III as he walked out of a Gulfport convenience store and a man identified as Holloway opened fire. Had the woman gone out the door first, she would have been the one killed, a prosecutor said.

Holloway faces a capital murder charge in the Jan. 11, 2014, killing of Howze in front of M&S Food Mart on Old Pass Road in Gaston Point.

Harrison County Judge Gaston Hewes heard evidence in a preliminary hearing Tuesday and found probable cause to send the case to a grand jury.

“It was cold-blooded murder for a car-jacking,” said Herman Cox, Harrison County prosecuting attorney. “It would have happened to the first person to walk out of the store.

“Mr. Howze didn’t see it coming.”

Holloway was arrested the next day in New Mexico, where state police have said he opened fire on them when they found him driving the stolen car on Interstate 10 east of Lordsburg.

If Holloway is indicted, a video of his killing may be shown at his trial.

Howze was an altar server at St. John the Evangelist Church in Gulfport and was attending Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. He lived with his grandparents, Raymond Howze Sr. and Linda Howze, in Gaston Point.

Red hooded sweatshirt is evidence

Holloway had just quit his job at a Waffle House in Gulfport, police Detective Sgt. Christopher Werner testified Tuesday. Surveillance footage from the Waffle House shows Holloway was wearing a red hooded sweatshirt when he collected his last paycheck three hours before Howze was killed, Werner said.

Evidence shows Holloway wore a red hooded sweatshirt when he ambushed Howze, and a red hooded sweatshirt was found in the stolen car after Holloway was taken into custody, Werner said while questioned in court.

The shooter also was wearing a backpack with a Sponge Bob cartoon character design and a black cap with a tiger design and round logo. Those items also appeared in video, Werner said, and were found in the stolen car.

Cameras recorded shooting

Still frames from four security cameras at the convenience store show what happened in a matter of seconds starting about 5:35 that Sunday night, as narrated in court by Werner.

Howze walks into the store, makes a purchase and is about to leave when a woman also about to leave opens the door for him. A man in a red hooded sweatshirt begins to emerge from behind an air pump on the side of the building. The man raises what appears to be an SKS rifle in his right hand and a .45-caliber handgun in his left hand. The woman coming out the door hasn’t noticed the commotion yet. The man aims the handgun at Howze.

A second or two later, Werner said, a muzzle flash of gunfire is caught on camera as the woman comes out the door and an unidentified woman in the parking lot looks on. A black Toyota Camry is parked next to the white 2008 Chevrolet Cobalt that Howze had driven to the store, Werner said.

The gunman “charged” Howze, running toward him, still shooting at Howze after he fell to the ground between the Cobalt and the Camry, Werner said.

Six shots were fired. Three struck Howze.

“It was apparent he was shot near the neck-head area, the torso and the left ankle,” Werner said.

Howze died at the scene. An autopsy would later showed the cause of death was multiple gunshot wounds.

The gunman jumped in the Cobalt, found the keys inside and fled before police arrived.

Crime-scene technicians gathered casings from a .45-caliber gun, Werner said. A .45 round was found under Howze’s ankle as his body was removed.

Man’s car window shot out

One of two 911 calls about 5:40 p.m. on Jan. 11, 2014, came from a man who told police he was driving by the store at 4613 Old Pass when someone shot out his car’s windshield. The bullet missed the man. A projectile lodged inside a post in the man’s car.

Four people, workers and customers, were inside the store when it happened. Two people were in the parking lot; one of those was not identified by police and left the scene.

Workers identified Holloway as the shooter. Holloway lived next door to the store with a relative.

“He’d come in four times a day,” Werner said.

Holloway was so well-known to the workers that they didn’t call police the day he went in the store wearing a camouflage bandana over his face. They recalled he walked with a limp, as if he had a long rifle stuck down his pants.

Workers and customers picked out Holloway in a photo lineup, Werner said.

Howze also was a regular customer. He probably knew of Holloway from the neighborhood but there’s no evidence to indicate they knew each other or associated with each other, Werner said.

Police learned the Cobalt was registered to Howze’s girlfriend. They put out an alert for area police and obtained a warrant for Holloway’s arrest.

Cellphone ‘ping’ locates car

Howze had a cellphone. It wasn’t in his pockets, but it led to Holloway’s location.

Investigators contacted Howze’s cellphone service provider. They “pinged” his phone the next day and found it in New Mexico on Interstate 10 near Lordsburg, Werner said. New Mexico State Police found the Cobalt. Holloway was driving it, they said, and he led them on a high-speed 45-minute pursuit, then he stopped, got out of car and fired on officers.

Holloway was struck by gunfire and was hospitalized at a trauma center in El Paso, Texas.

Items seized from the stolen car included .45- and .40-caliber handguns and an SKS rifle.

Gulfport detectives went to interview Holloway two days after his capture. Holloway said he didn’t remember being in Mississippi and didn’t want to answer some of the questions, Werner said.

Holloway had bought the .45-caliber gun in September 2014. Gulfport police found him with it in November 2014, but the gun was registered and Holloway was not arrested.

Public defender Charles Stewart questioned Werner during Tuesday’s hearing. Two prosecutors from the District Attorney’s Office joined Cox at the prosecution table.

Several of Howze’s family members were in court to hear the testimony.