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Free Press Online

The student-run news site of Lawrence Free State High School

Free Press Online

The student-run news site of Lawrence Free State High School

Free Press Online

Meet the Staff
Nick Sprecker
Nick Sprecker
Sports Editor

Nick Sprecker is a junior at Free State and is the Sports Editor on staff. Outside of journalism, he is a member of the boys football and soccer program. He is involved in multiple clubs, LINK, and NHS.

NEWS BRIEF: Jury Acquits Teen Shooter

Acquittal of Derrick Reed in the Shooting of Kamarjay Shaw
Design by Geneva Sabatini

On March 6, testimony began in the district court case involving the death of Lawrence teen Kamarjay Shaw, 14, by fellow teen Derrick Reed, who was 17 at the time of the shooting. The shooting occurred in the area of E 13th and Maple St. and police reported to the scene around 5 p.m. on March 18 of 2023. 

The case was initially set to reach trial in November 2023 but got pushed to March of 2024. By March 13, after deliberating for a day and a half, the jury released their verdict. 

The verdict acquitted Reed of charges for first-degree murder, and was one of five charges the jury could have found him guilty or innocent of. These included first, second and reckless second-degree murder, as well as voluntary and involuntary manslaughter. It is unclear if Reed has been released from all responsibility for the crime, due to a cybersecurity issue blocking the public’s access to recent court documents through the district court. 

The verdict came after testimony from multiple witnesses, with one sole witness testifying to say they saw Reed pull the trigger with 99% certainty, as reported by the Lawrence Times. This testification came from a 17 year-old, who was running with Shaw when shots were fired. 

Despite this testimony, the jury would acquit Reed of the charge. This would oppose much of the popular opinion on the case, which was especially prevalent on social media. Before reading the verdict, Douglas County District Judge Sally Pokorny would stress the importance of accepting the verdict, despite the emotional nature of the case for all involved. 

According to the Lawrence Times, more than three additional witnesses testified, one of whom was a neighbor of Reed’s, who stated that she had seen an individual with a gun while looking towards the street from within her home. However, she said she did not believe this individual to be Reed. It is unclear what role this testimony played in the final verdict, since the court files are not open yet. 

Video and photo surveillance also depict a figure with a dark object in their hand, standing along the driver’s side of Reed’s car. As the image progresses, it appears the person may be entering the car. However, this person could not be positively identified as Reed, and it is known that Reed was accompanied in fleeing the scene with friend Owen Walker, 19. 

The other cited testimony came from two individuals who said they followed Reed’s car from the scene and could confirm him as the driver, but also confirmed they had not seen shots fired. It was also testified that Walker was in the passenger seat. 

Reed’s departure resulted in a manhunt, with Reed turning himself in the following day. At this time, samples were taken from his hands as well as the steering wheel of his car, which confirmed the presence of primer gunshot residue or pGSR. 

This residue is a result of unburned or partially burned gunpowder and parts of the bullet, such as the bullet jacket, that are vaporized when a firearm is discharged. However, pGSR sample results can be positive without the firing of a gun, as such particles can exist from other residue or can be the result of a contaminated sample. 

Despite physical evidence, such as the pGSR, Reed was acquitted. It is unclear whether this was based on a lack of conclusive testimony, the involvement of individuals like Walker or other factors within the case. 

Walker was also tested for pGSR, and the results were negative. Police have currently been unsuccessful in attempts to locate Walker, as demanded by his involvement in the case. Regardless, the opinion amongst Shaw’s family and the broader community is overwhelmingly in support of Reed’s conviction. 

After the verdict was read, family members of Shaw exited the historic courthouse in downtown Lawrence, some denying comment; however, Shaw’s grandfather expressed, “That [the verdict] just shows there’s no justice here. That means that a white person can shoot a Black person here, and then it can go into court with an all-white jury, and you’re set free,” as quoted by the Lawrence Times

The support for his conviction also follows the revealed presence of racially threatening content within Snapchat messages sent by Reed prior to the event. This included the use of the N-word as well as discussions of saving to purchase a gun and statements about being tired of fighting with Shaw and his friend group. These messages also contained statements regarding readiness to shoot. 

Although Reed was acquitted of one charge by the district court, public opinion and family action did not rest the case. Action was previously taken by the family, specifically a cousin of Shaw’s, to engage the case at a federal level, as cited by The Root. If engaged at the federal level, charges could be brought against Shaw that would surpass the jurisdiction of the local court. 

About the Contributor
Simon Williams
Simon Williams, Online Managing Editor
Simon Williams is a junior at Free State and a reporter on staff. In school, she is apart of LINK Crew, NHS, and Speech and Debate where she serves on the NSDA Leadership Board. Outside of school, Simon enjoys volunteering, nature, outdoor activities, fashion, and travel.
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