BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- A 24-year-old man was acquitted Friday of fatally shooting the brother of an NFL football player in 2019.
After two days of deliberations, a Jefferson County jury decided Darrius Frazier fired in self-defense when he killed 27-year-old Gjamal Antonio Rodriguez and wounded Rodriguez's girlfriend, Dedria Johnson, more than two years ago, al.com reported.
Frazier, who had no prior criminal record and has been held without bond in the Jefferson County Jail since Oct. 29, 2019, broke down upon hearing the verdict, the news site reported.
"A jury found him not guilty and we're happy about that,'' defense attorney Emory Anthony said. "I'm sad in that the life of Mr. Gjamal Rodriguez was taken, but my client has always said it was only in self-defense."
"He kept the faith, and he knew the only reason he fired shots was because he believed the young man was reaching for a gun,'' he said.
The shooting happened on Sunday, Oct. 27, 2019, on Birmingham's east side.
According to trial testimony, Frazier and Rodriquez were dating sisters who lived at a residence in the area. Rodriguez's girlfriend argued with Frazier, and she warned him that she was going to get Rodriguez involved.
A day before Rodriguez died, Rodriguez fired six shots into Frazier's home, at which time Frazier returned fire, authorities said. No one was injured at that time. Rodriguez reportedly vowed to shoot at Frazier every time he saw him.
The following night, according to testimony and closing statements from the lawyers, Frazier was at his girlfriend's home. As he was leaving, he saw Rodriguez parked with his girlfriend in the passenger's seat.
District Attorney Jessica Hebson, in her closing statements, said Frazier immediately went to the trunk of his car and pulled out a "big gun," which was a rifle.
"He walked over to the car and made a choice to engage in a verbal altercation,'' the prosecutor said. "Words were said. They were angry. They had a beef. They had been going back and forth but the defendant upped the ante."
Hebson said Frazier fired 16 shots into Rodriguez's vehicle. Rodriquez was struck eight times and later pronounced dead. His girlfriend was also struck several times but survived.
Hebson said the shooting was not self-defense.
"He is not justified if he provoked the situation, if he was the initial aggressor," she said.
Anthony, in closing arguments, said it was clearly a case of self-defense. He said after Rodriguez fired into Frazier's house the previous day, he said, "I will be back. And every time I see you, I'm going to shoot."
Anthony said Rodriguez was angry, and that Frazier only fired when he thought Rodriguez was reaching under his seat for a gun.
"Every shot fired was fired into the side of the jeep where [Frazier] believed [Rodriguez] was reaching down under the seat to get a gun,'' Anthony said. "He was trying to stop the person from getting the gun."
A gun was not recovered from Rodriguez's vehicle.