Testimony: Victims Planned Robbery Before Fatal AR-15 Shooting | WGLT

Testimony: Victims Planned Robbery Before Fatal AR-15 Shooting

Jun 11, 2020

Before they went to Christopher Harrison’s home to steal guns, drugs and money, Joseph Gardner and Reggie Hart Jr. made a plan to take what they wanted, according to a detective’s testimony Thursday at Harrison’s murder trial.

The 20-year-old defendant is accused of killing Gardner, 20, and Hart, 19, during an April 2018 incident at a Normal apartment complex. Harrison claims he acted in self-defense after the pair attempted to rob him.

Gardner and Hart were shot multiple times after they ran from the second-floor apartment Harrison shared with his mother and siblings.

Reginald Hart Jr., left, and Joseph Gardner were fatally shot at a Normal apartment building in April 2018.
Credit David Proeber / The Pantagraph (pool)

Text messages exchanged between the victims in the days before the April 25, 2018, slayings included references to what the pair expected to steal and how they would accomplish the armed robbery, according to Normal Police Detective Brad Underwood.

“I’ll pull up on him with the sawed-off,” Gardner wrote in a text to Hart, referring to a weapon Gardner had modified.

“I can’t wait to get that pistol," Gardner wrote, to which Hart responded, “You gonna have the AR (assault-style rifle).”

Police determined more than 20 rounds were fired from an assault-style gun at the two men as they moved toward the front door of the complex. Their bodies were found just inside the door, with Hart partially covering Gardner, as the two bodies were sprawled face down in a pool of blood.

Underwood told jurors the three men knew each other and were involved in ongoing drug transactions. Social media posts of Harrison displaying an assault-style rifle were shown to the jury.

Defense lawyer Kevin Sanborn asked Underwood about texts between Gardner and Harrison in which Gardner thanked his friend for fronting him 28 grams of marijuana to sell.

“You already know I look out for my guys,” Harrison texted Gardner.

Other texts read in court between Hart and Gardner indicate plans to rob other people and ignore the drug debt to Harrison.

The state’s final witness was forensic pathologist Dr. Scott Denton. The jury viewed a series of graphic photos that detailed the multiple wounds that killed the victims. The bullets were fired from an assault-style weapon, Denton said in response to lengthy questions from Assistant State’s Attorney Jeff Horve.

The shooter was above and behind the victims, said the doctor, a position that matches police reports that Harrison fired from the staircase in the entryway.

The defense begins its case on Friday.

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