Bama Basketball Shooting Latest: Video Evidence Illuminates Tragedy
TUSCALOOSA, AL — Compelling video evidence viewed by Tuscaloosa Patch gives the clearest picture yet regarding the Jan. 15 shooting death of 23-year-old Birmingham mother Jamea Harris, which resulted in capital murder charges for former Alabama basketball player Darius Miles and his childhood friend Michael Davis.
The videos reveal weaknesses in the prosecution’s case against the two men, while also shedding light as to why superstar freshman Brandon Miller has not been charged.
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The facts presented in this story are mostly a composite of extensive video evidence seen for the first time by Tuscaloosa Patch, along with the transcript of the nearly 3-hour preliminary hearing held in February. It’s worth noting that cameras and recording devices for the press were barred from the courtroom.
So, in order to tell the story in the easiest possible terms, I figured this to be the fairest way, basing it on the information we have at this time. While paraphrased in places for the sake of brevity, it’s presented chronologically to show a second-by-second progression of events, reinforced by basic facts of the case that have either been confirmed or personally viewed by Tuscaloosa Patch.
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Be sure through this story to keep in mind that it will likely to take you longer to read this than it did for the events to develop on the morning of Jan. 15.
THE LEAD UP
In the late night hours following Alabama basketball’s blowout 106-66 win over LSU the afternoon of Saturday, Jan. 14, a group consisting of Charles County, Maryland native Michael Davis, then-Alabama forward Darius Miles and freshman guard Jaden Bradley can be seen on video exiting Club 1225 on The Strip.
This is where our story begins, winding down a night out on the town celebrating a Crimson Tide victory during what would go on to become the most successful season in program history.
Miles was out with a minor injury during the big win at Coleman Coliseum that Saturday afternoon — a 3 p.m. tipoff. Otherwise, Miller had one of his many dominating performances, scoring 31 points and grabbing 9 rebounds, while Bradley had 7 points in the win.
Miller — an All-American and the reigning SEC Player of the Year — did not go to the club the night of the LSU win, purportedly because of the long line at the door to get in. Indeed, video evidence presented in court showed a congested mass of people swelling out along University Boulevard and almost into the street.
What’s more, when considering why the gun was left in Miller’s car, it must be mentioned that security at Club 1225 pats down guests before they enter the business.
Extensive reporting through the progression of the case all but personally confirms that Brandon Miller was the designated driver that night and spent most of the evening at a restaurant in nearby downtown Tuscaloosa.
While the three men were at the club, there was a separate group of apparent revelers consisting of the eventual shooting victim — Jamea Harris — along with her boyfriend and father of her child, Cedric Johnson. They were also joined by her first cousin, Asia Humphrey, who is a junior at the University of Alabama.
Both Harris and Johnson were residents of the Birmingham area at the time of the shooting.
At 1:02 a.m., Miles texts Miller and asks “Cn u take me to go see if da lofts open” before texting him again at 1:19 a.m. to ask how long it was going to be before he picked him up.
The two groups can be seen leaving Club 1225 after 1 a.m., with Harris and Humphrey on video walking back to Harris’ black Jeep.
Humphrey then becomes the driver for a brief time, at one point admitting under oath that she wasn’t well acquainted with the automatic window mechanisms of the Jeep as she tried to talk to a passerby she knew. This was after the Jeep is on video pulling up to the corner of Grace Street at University Boulevard and idling for a time.
Separately, security camera footage shows Davis and Bradley in the vicinity of Jeep, before Miles walks past the two groups and is seen carrying a to-go box containing chicken wings. Miles shuffles past the two groups before a verbal altercation was reported to have occurred between Davis and Johnson.
All of the witness evidence for probable cause in the capital murder cases presented by Tuscaloosa Violent Crimes Unit investigator Brendan Culpepper hinged exclusively on the statements given by Johnson to police
But both sides do seem to agree, in a basic sense, that Davis had initially tried to speak to Harris, before Johnson rolled down the window. In Culpepper’s words, Johnson told Davis to “move along.”
In response, Culpepper claimed Davis became belligerent, asking Johnson if he knew who he was and what he would do to him. The investigator, when under cross examination, said Johnson was the only person involved who gave such a testimony.
Indeed, when under oath during the preliminary hearing, Humphrey did not corroborate the investigator’s claims. Instead, she testified that she never heard Davis, nor anyone else for that matter, make any threats, despite being in the Jeep.
Humphrey did testify that Johnson rolled down the window to tell Davis “No brother, why don’t you be good?”
The only words Humphrey claimed she heard from Davis were “I don’t want your girl.”
It’s at this point that Miles, still carrying his to-go box, can be seen on video doubling back to retrieve his friends and urging them to come along.
Bradley even told investigators, as Patch previously reported, that Miles had been a “calming presence” for Davis during the minor altercation.
Indeed, the two D.C.-area natives have been friends since middle school, with Darius Miles’ father David Miles saying on a podcast earlier this week that his son had lobbied to get Davis an event staff job on the University of Alabama campus. This followed the death of a close friend and a previous gun arrest for Davis in Maryland.
Still, Miles told investigators that, while standing alongside the Jeep and trying to corral his friends away from the situation, he saw a gun passed from the front passenger of the vehicle to Johnson in the back seat. Indeed, Miles can be seen on video visibly urging the two other men to leave the area, to which they eventually comply without any further escalation.
Let’s press pause at this point. As the reporting in this story will reiterate later on, the written statements for Davis and Miles initially given to VCU investigators have not been made public, apart from the testimony provided during the preliminary hearing.
While video evidence does not conclusively show if a handgun is indeed being transferred during this initial interaction, it does appear to show Harris in the passenger seat leaning forward toward the glovebox, before then twisting her body around as if handing something to Johnson in the back seat.
When asked on the stand about this possibility in February, Culpepper swiftly retorted that it was just as likely Harris was passing food to Johnson, after he was recorded earlier returning to the Jeep with food from Quick Grill on University Boulevard.
Back to the timeline.
At this point, according to the transcript and video timestamps, the time is 1:38 a.m.
This corresponds with the timestamp for Miles when he texted Brandon Miller as the group of three walked through the parking lot and behind the Houndstooth sports bar to where Jaden Bradley’s car was parked.
Here’s the most relevant part of their exchanges that has been read into the record or independently viewed. If Brandon Miller texted back anything in response, it hasn’t been read into the official record or independently been verified by Tuscaloosa Patch
” I need my joint … rl just got da fakin,” Miles texted to Miller.
For the first time in this reporter’s career, the slang translation website urbandictionary.com was cited in court when the defense attorney for Darius Miles — Mary Turner — argued that “fakin” referred to threatening behavior from another party or individual, before explaining that “joint,” in this context, meant the .40 caliber handgun that Miles had left in Miller’s Dodge Charger before going out that night.
At roughly the same time as these messages were sent, Cedric Johnson is recorded on video getting out of the black Jeep still parked at Grace Street and University Boulevard with its hazard lights on.
It must be noted that Johnson appears to be wearing sweat/track pants during the night of the shooting and can be seen at this point now favoring his right hip and concealing his right hand throughout this section of video.
Johnson then crosses University Boulevard and nearly brushes shoulders with Miles’ girlfriend, Skylar Essex, in the middle of the street as she walks in the opposite direction.
The two do not interact or even seem look at each other. Essex, in her bleach white, thigh-high boots, is easy to identify on video and she can be seen tapping across the asphalt in the same direction of the three men she had been with at Club 1225. The boots will be important later when it comes to security camera footage.
Once on the other side of the street, Johnson goes up to speak to a group of people, most notably 23-year-old Birmingham-area native Shu’Bonte Greene.
Greene was subpoenaed to testify during the preliminary hearing in February, but did not show up to court that morning in the Tuscaloosa County Jail courtroom. Defense attorneys told Patch Cedric Johnson had not yet been successfully served a subpoena.
According to arrest documents from Jefferson County obtained by Patch, Greene has an extensive criminal history that includes a 2021 arrest for receiving stolen property, attempting to elude a police officer, unlawfully carrying of a pistol and burglary.
Most recently, on Jan. 25, records from the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office show that less than two weeks after the fatal shooting that left Harris dead, Greene was back in jail in Hueytown on charges of assaulting a police officer, once again attempting to elude police and several other non-violent, yet serious offenses.
At any rate, Johnson is seen departing from Greene and the other two men, before walking back across University Boulevard to the intersection with Grace Street … still favoring his right hip and concealing his right hand.
Johnson then becomes the driver of the black Jeep. Harris, at this point, moves to the front passenger seat, while Asia Humphrey is now in the back seat.
Security camera footage at 1:41 a.m then shows the black Jeep, with its hazard lights on, pulling into the back of the apartment complex owned by College Station Properties — minutes before the shootout on Grace Street occurred.
Mary Turner, the defense attorney for Darius Miles, has argued the occupants of the Jeep had the opportunity to turn down University Boulevard and leave the area. Johnson even told investigators that prior to the shooting, they were tying to find the best way out of The Strip area.
Never mind that the Jeep is then seen pulling into the parking lot at the nearby apartment complex, where it is immediately joined by a red Chevrolet Impala.
Lead investigator Brendan Culpepper said during the preliminary hearing in February, as far as he knew, Greene was the only occupant of the Impala. Video footage viewed by Patch and shown in court, however, tells a different story.
Johnson is seen getting out of the Jeep, before making animated gestures that show he is emotional about something when talking to Greene, who is sitting behind the wheel of the red Impala and out of sight. He then gets back in the Jeep and pulls out of the parking lot.
In the seconds after this, an individual who has not yet been identified gets out of the back seat of the red Impala and retrieves something from the trunk. This individual then goes to get back into the vehicle, only to have to return to the back of the car because the trunk re-opened after not being properly closed.
A short distance away — from exactly 1:38 a.m. until 1:42 a.m. — a completely unrelated bareknuckle fight breaks out near the CVS on The Strip that Skylar Essex is involved in.
In the video, she is shown to be visibly angry. At one point, she can even be seen taking off her bright white boots to get better footing in the large scrum of young women. By all accounts, this physical altercation involved no one even tangentially connected to the shooting apart from Essex.
As the fists are being thrown outside CVS, attorneys for Darius Miles say he was in Jaden Bradley’s Dodge Challenger, before getting out to deal with his girlfriend once he saw what was going on and to get her away from the altercation.
Michael Davis also reportedly tried to break up the fight and eventually Miles escorts his girlfriend to her car parked on the other side of a nearby building a short distance away.
At the same time, security camera footage during the hair-tugging fist fight near CVS still shows the black Jeep circling the block.
Culpepper claimed that it was during this time Davis supposedly asked Essex where the black Jeep was. The lead investigator is the only individual to testify to such a claim, and it’s worth noting because this simple exchange is one of the crucial pieces of evidence in the capital murder case against both men.
The first of the two most compelling pieces of video evidence viewed by Patch comes at exactly 1:42 a.m.
It’s at this time the Jeep can be seen pulling up to the yield sign at Grace Street and immediately switching off its headlamps once it comes within its eyeshot of Davis, who is walking the opposite direction and does not appear to see the Jeep or even turn to look back after the lights flash off.
Indeed, the headlamps snap off fast, presenting an eerie image to this reporter that, given the aforementioned details, casts an insidious look after the Jeep had been trolling the immediate vicinity after the brief verbal spat off of University Boulevard.
After the fight involving the group of women, Davis and Miles then walk back to Brandon Miller’s car, which was parked on Grace Street behind Jaden Bradley’s car.
As Patch extensively reported, it made national news this week when the New York Times dropped a bombshell report citing an anonymous source who claimed Alabama walk-on freshman Kai Spears was in the front passenger seat of Miller’s vehicle when the shooting occurred — allegations that were swiftly denied by the University of Alabama administration, the student-athlete himself and his father, Marshall University Athletic Director Christian Spears.
Stephen New, an attorney in West Virginia, is representing the Spears family in a potential defamation case against the New York Times and told Patch on Friday that the evidence presented would prove his client was nowhere near the scene of the fatal shooting.
New commented that he would not speak on specifics at this time or at least not until deciding which United States Circuit Court district to file the lawsuit in — with the two options being in Spears’ home state of West Virginia or in Alabama, where he is attending school.
“I can’t think of the other guy’s name in the passenger seat,” lead Investigator Brendan Culpepper said during the preliminary hearing, according to the official transcript.
Despite incessant digging, this is as far as Patch has been able to publicly report on the issue of the passenger in Miller’s vehicle, as video evidence doesn’t even definitively show if anyone else is in the passenger seat.
Still, Culpepper did confirm under oath that an unnamed individual was in the passenger seat of Miller’s Dodge Charger. With respect to criminal cases, Division-I athletes are considered public figures, legally speaking. Libel and defamation lawsuits involving public figures in almost every case hinge on the presence of malice, while the average private citizen is granted a much-higher degree of expectation for their personal privacy.
That being said, it is more than understandable if an individual not considered a public figure, but who is fully cooperating with the investigation and in no way suspected of being involved in any criminal activity, is not publicly identified in such a high-profile case.
But let’s get back to the timeline.
Following the unrelated nearby scuffle at CVS involving a group of young women, Davis and Miles can be seen returning to Miller’s Dodge Charger, which was recorded pulling up on Grace Street at 1:43 a.m. It must be objectively mentioned that other than the text message after the exchange off of University Boulevard, neither of the men charged with capital murder seem to be on the lookout for a would-be assailant.
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Even so, Davis and Miles are then seen walking to Miller’s car, where the now-infamous exchange between the two men was captured on dash cam audio retrieved by investigators through a search warrant of the vehicle.
Culpepper said someone opens the back door and, presumably Miles, can be heard saying “the heat is in the hat” before being asked “Is there one in the head?” — meaning was there a chambered round in the semiautomatic pistol.
Tuscaloosa Patch has not independently verified the contents of this audio recording, due to it being evidence gathered from a police search warrant. The same goes for crucial documents such as the official written statement given by Miles and Davis after being questioned by investigators.
Moving along the timeline, though, Skyler Essex can be seen on surveillance footage following Miles and Davis to Miller’s vehicle during this time. Miles then walks her back to her car and even appears to turn in mid-stride, looking back to signal to Jaden Bradley to hold on while he got her to her car.
At roughly the same time, the black Jeep is captured on video executing a U-turn nearby and starting back down Grace Street in their direction, eventually pulling in behind Miller’s car.
And after all, this followed the Jeep circling the block with time enough to have an unexplained meeting with others nearby — all in the time it took for a full-on fight to commence near CVS and be broken up.
It is at this point that Davis, who had walked off in another direction, can be seen running up behind the Jeep and up to the driver’s side window.
At 1:45 a.m., the first shot was fired.
Video footage seen by Patch, which is overlayed with timestamped audio, provides far and away the most compelling evidence that has not yet been made public to this point. Due to the violent nature of the case, Patch will not be publishing any of the video of shooting.
I intentionally buried the lede here and it took a whole bunch of words to get to this point, but the progression of events and the need for airtight objectivity calls for nothing less than a long-winded explanation. After all, there are no higher stakes than a capital murder case.
From one angle in particular, when the first shot can be heard, an initial muzzle flash can be clearly seen inside the Jeep on the driver’s side. This was followed by two more bright muzzle flashes from the same spot within the blacked-out windshield as Davis is now seen in the open and away from the Jeep returning fire. While it is not conclusive who fired first, this development is the most compelling yet when considering the rest of the evidence presented thus far.
During this time, Davis fired a total of eight rounds, mostly as he was running away.
Equally important are the split-seconds of the shooting showing Davis — who at this point is out in the open for the recording and has established a few feet of distance from the Jeep.
In one of the final shots fired during the shooting and seemingly after Davis has been struck by gunfire, security camera footage shows him firing a shot that appears to shatter the Jeep’s windshield, with glass spraying up and the windshield showing visible signs of damage.
Most likely it seems it was this shot that struck Harris on the left side of her face as she sat in the passenger seat, killing the 23-year-old mother, but that has yet to be confirmed by her autopsy.
The only other shot that seems to have hit the vehicle, as far as testimony over ballistics in court, entered through the driver’s side mirror.
It is also believed by defense attorneys for Miles that the two shots that struck Brandon Miller’s car were fired by Davis as he attempted to run away from Grace Street.
The next few minutes appear to immediately descend into chaos for both groups.
After the gunfire is exchanged, the Jeep and Miller’s car both try to speed out of the narrow two-lane side street, brushing side-by-side in a minor collision before the Jeep pulls out onto University Boulevard and eventually ends up at the Walk of Champions at Bryant-Denny Stadium after Johnson spotted an on-duty University of Alabama police officer.
Police body cam footage from Johnson’s initial statement to the officer shows him claiming that Davis made threats while they were out on Grace Street — reportedly to the effect of “I told you I was gonna get you.”
This is a notion Asia Humphrey, who was sitting in the back seat, said under oath that she never heard. Instead, the first thing she claimed to hear was gunfire and failed to provide much more in the way of second-by-second details.
In a copy of a search warrant obtained by Tuscaloosa Patch, Johnson told investigators that he “retrieved” his handgun only after Davis had come up to the driver’s side window, which seems to contradict what is seen on video.
Investigator Culpepper, however, claimed in court that it was Davis who fired first, despite basing seemingly all of his probable cause evidence on testimony provided solely by Cedric Johnson.
It’s worth noting that Johnson did not testify during the hearing, nor has he been charged with anything relating to the fatal shooting or mentioned as a suspect for a criminal charge. He has, though, managed avoid testifying under oath in the murder case of the mother of his child.
The vehicles left the scene in the seconds after shots were fired and Davis was recorded running away from Grace Street after being shot twice. Skylar Essex was driving her vehicle with Darius Miles as a passenger when they picked Davis up at an unspecified intersection nearby.
Davis got into the vehicle and told them he had been shot, according to testimony in the court transcripts.
It’s unclear where the red Impala driven by Shu’Bonte Greene made off to in the immediate aftermath as it had appeared to follow the black Jeep.
Miles and Davis then end up at University Downs Apartments a short time later, where several Alabama basketball players shared an apartment.
It was during this time that Miles called 911, informing a dispatcher that his friend had been shot and he didn’t know the circumstances.
This is another central piece of evidence for the capital murder case against Miles, as it has been asserted that Miles lied to police in the moments after the shooting.
According to court testimony from Culpepper, who later interviewed Davis at DCH Regional Medical Center, Davis said he had been drinking heavily and did not remember how he had been shot twice — only that he remembered police being at the apartment.
During an executed search warrant of the University Downs apartment, a Mini Draco — a large AK-style pistol resembling an AK-47 — was recovered, along with a .40 caliber handgun police believe was the weapon Davis could be seen firing on video.
A search of the Jeep resulted in a revolver being found between the driver’s seat and center console, along with an unspecified amount of marijuana and a magazine for another gun that has yet to be located.
While an open carry state since its founding, it’s worth noting that, as of Jan. 1 of this year, the state of Alabama dropped its pistol permit requirement for those carrying handguns in their vehicle.
Davis and Miles were subsequently arrested for the shooting, indicted on the capital murder charges and sitting without bond at this moment in the Tuscaloosa County Jail. If it can be proven that Cedric Johnson fired first, Miles and Davis may be able to credibly assert self defense in the case.
Next stop: Jury trial.
When offered the opportunity to comment on the ongoing litigation, Tuscaloosa County District Attorney Hays Webb thanked Tuscaloosa Patch for its interest in the case, but said his office would not be commenting on any relevant aspects of the active case at this time.
Ryan Phillips is an award-winning journalist, editor and opinion columnist. He is also the founder and field editor of Tuscaloosa Patch. Email news tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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