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Defense Sets Up Self-Defense Claim In Bloomington Murder Trial

Hammet Brown
Bloomington Police Department

Hammet Brown acted in self-defense when he killed two people at a Bloomington party in 2018, according to opening remarks from his lawyer on Monday, the first day of his bench trial on murder charges.

The 29-year-old defendant is charged with murder in the deaths of Steven Alexander Jr., 18, and Taneshiea Brown, 20. Brown, who is not related to the victim who shared his surname, allegedly shot the pair during a party at an apartment complex on Orchard Road in Bloomington.

Judge Casey Costigan will hear the case and issue a verdict.

Prosecutor Mary Lawson said the large crowd that gathered outside for a birthday celebration became victims of gun violence.

“It was set up to be a good summer evening. People were just having a good time hanging out,” Lawson said Monday, adding the fun shifted to people “watching their friends die.”

In addition to the two deceased victims, Brown also is charged with attempted murder of Tyree Jones and Kenleia Sims. Both were expected to testify Monday.

Defense lawyer Mark Zalcman recounted an incident several weeks before the party when Brown allegedly was chased in his car by Alexander and another man.

Brown's marijuana sales at a local food mart caused a turf war between the men, said Zalcman. When Brown arrived at the party, Alexander approached him and pointed a gun, said the lawyer.

“I finally got you,” Alexander allegedly told the defendant. 

“My client was prepared for action and did what he needed to do,” said Zalcman.

The defense also is expected to call a woman to testify who allegedly said she heard a person say, “Get the gun, get the gun,” after the shooting. The woman was not at the party, but her recollection of the statement could suggest another person was armed during the incident, Zalcman told Costigan at an earlier hearing.

Eight shell casings found at the scene all matched the same stolen gun believed to be the murder weapon, according to police. The handgun was traced to a theft in which a woman stole the weapon and sold it to Brown. She was later convicted on gun charges.

The trial is expected to conclude early next week, after breaks for court holidays on Friday and Monday.

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Edith began her career as a reporter with The DeWitt County Observer, a weekly newspaper in Clinton. From 2007 to June 2019, Edith covered crime and legal issues for The Pantagraph, a daily newspaper in Bloomington, Illinois. She previously worked as a correspondent for The Pantagraph covering courts and local government issues in central Illinois.
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