Jury acquits teen in shooting death of Lawrence boy

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Post last updated at 5:24 p.m. Wednesday, March 13:

A Douglas County jury on Wednesday acquitted a teen in the shooting death of a Lawrence boy, following about a day and a half of deliberation.

Derrick D. Reed, 18, was tried for first-degree murder in the death of Kamarjay Shaw, 14. The shooting took place nearly a year ago, on the evening of March 18, 2023, near Reed’s home. Reed, who was 17 years old at the time, was tried as an adult, and Douglas County District Judge Sally Pokorny previously ruled that he could not claim self-defense.

Testimony in the trial began Wednesday, March 6, and both the state and defense rested their cases on Monday. The jury deliberated for about half an hour Monday and all day Tuesday, staying until about 5:30 p.m. Wednesday morning, a juror called in sick, so one of the three alternate jurors was called in. Jurors announced that they had a verdict around 12:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Mackenzie Clark/Lawrence Times Derrick Reed heads toward his seat before closing arguments in his trial, March 11, 2024.

Prosecutors told jurors they could find Reed not guilty, or they could find him guilty of one of five charges:
• First-degree murder, meaning Reed planned and intended to kill Kamarjay or one of the boys who was with him;
• Second-degree murder, meaning Reed intended to kill but did not plan to;
• Reckless second-degree murder, meaning Reed showed “extreme indifference” to human life;
• Voluntary manslaughter, meaning Reed knowingly killed after a sudden quarrel; or
• Involuntary manslaughter, meaning Reed had acted recklessly and killed. 

Pokorny said just before she read the verdict that the case has been emotional for everyone, but that those present must accept the verdict of the jury.

After she read the verdict, there was a brief pause before most of Kamarjay’s family and supporters exited the courtroom, several expressing their disdain on the way out and in the hallway. They went outside and congregated in the small parking lot directly south of the historic courthouse. 

Kamarjay Shaw and his mother

Shortly after, two of Reed’s family members in a white car pulled up to the parking lot, and several of Kamarjay’s family members and supporters were upset by them. They yelled at the people in the car and asked law enforcement to get them out of there. The car soon drove off.

At least 20 police officers and sheriff’s deputies rushed outside. 

Kamarjay’s family and supporters were highly emotional, some sobbing and others running through the parking lot and street. At least one person required medical attention. A deputy rushed out of the courthouse with an AED, and an ambulance arrived a few minutes later. 

Stephen Dowdell, Kamarjay’s grandfather — father of Barbara Dowdell, Kamarjay’s mother — was standing on a sidewalk in South Park. He was in disbelief that the jury could find Reed not guilty.

“It was wrong,” he said. “That 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.”

Barbara said she was too upset to speak.


Douglas County District Attorney Suzanne Valdez posted a video to Facebook after the verdict. She encouraged people to “take a step back and take care of each other.” She said that we have to have faith in the criminal justice system.

“Please refrain from anything that may cause harm to others as a result of the emotion that all of us are feeling today here in Douglas County,” she said in the video.

The DA’s office declined to comment further. Reed’s defense attorney, Mark Hartman, did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

During their deliberations Tuesday, jurors had asked to hear a witness’s testimony read back to them. The witness was a neighbor of Reed’s who testified Monday that she was watching the street from her house’s front windows when she saw someone — not Reed — holding a gun before she heard two shots.

They also asked to review surveillance images on the bigger screen in the courtroom. Still images from video footage shown in court last week depict a person holding an object in their right hand while on the driver’s side of Reed’s blue Chrysler. The person is wearing all black clothing and comes into frame on the driver’s side. As the images progress, the person looks to be getting inside the car.

Prosecutors Jennifer Tatum and Ricardo Leal relied heavily on video footage from a neighbor’s Ring door camera and another neighbor’s garage camera in addition to scientific evidence. 

Mackenzie Clark/Lawrence Times Chief Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Tatum, center, listens to testimony on March 11, 2024 during the trial for Derrick Reed. At left is Senior Assistant District Attorney Ricardo Leal. Judge Sally Pokorny is in the background.

According to testimony from teens present at the shooting, members of Reed’s group of friends and members of Kamarjay’s group of friends were expecting a one-on-one fist fight between each other the day of the shooting.

Video evidence shows the interaction between the two groups, Kamarjay and his friends running away as two shots ring out, and Reed fleeing the scene in his car.


One of Kamarjay’s friends, a 17-year-old boy, who was running away with him when he was shot remained the sole witness to say they saw Reed pull the trigger. He testified on Thursday that he was 99% confident.

Reed had also sent messages to a group of his friends via Snapchat the day of the shooting, repeatedly using a racial slur. Some messages Reed sent that morning included “But we (ain’t) got number to be fighting” followed by “So bout time to shoot shit fr (for real),” and “I see a hole lotta dead n—-s in my eyes (they) trynna f— wit me an mines”. Prosecutors said the messages showed the shooting was premeditated.

Lawrence police Detective Kim Nicholson, the lead detective on the case, collected samples from Reed’s face and both his hands after he turned himself in the day after the shooting occurred. James Taber, Kansas Bureau of Investigation forensic scientist, testified Friday that primer gunshot residue (pGSR) was present on Reed’s left hand on March 19, 2023.

Mackenzie Clark/Lawrence Times Defense attorney Mark Hartman, standing, shows Detective Kim Nicholson some Snapchat messages on his laptop during the jury trial for Derrick Reed, March 11, 2024.

Nicholson also collected samples for GSR tests from Owen Walker, 19, a friend of Reed’s. She interviewed him and took the samples after midnight following the shooting.

How did the jury decide?

If you served on the jury in this case and you would be willing to speak with The Lawrence Times to share how the jury reached its verdict, please contact us at 785-422-6363 or at Hello@LawrenceKSTimes.com. We will not publish your identity.

Hartman throughout the trial suggested Walker as a potential alternate suspect in the shooting. Law enforcement has been unable to locate him. 

No pGSR was detected on the samples from Walker, Taber testified.

Two teen girls who are sisters both testified last week that they were at the scene when the shooting occurred but that they didn’t see who fired the shots. The girls followed Reed’s blue Chrysler 300 as it sped away from the scene and confirmed they saw Reed in the driver’s seat and Walker with him on the passenger side.


Michaela Long, crime scene technician with the Lawrence police department, collected swabs for DNA and GSR from the blue Chrysler after it was recovered the day after the shooting. Particles characteristic of and consistent with pGSR were detected on the driver’s side interior door handle and the steering wheel, Taber testified Friday, and no pGSR was detected on the interior passenger door handle.

Dr. Chris Geffre, a forensic and medical examiner with Forensic Medical Management Services in Nashville, testified Thursday that Kamarjay’s cause of death was a gunshot wound to his torso and his manner of death was ruled a homicide. Geffre said the trajectory of the bullet was from “back to front, left to right and upwards” toward his heart.

Mackenzie Clark/Lawrence Times Douglas County District Judge Sally Pokorny reads the verdict in Derrick Reed’s trial, March 13, 2024.

Hartman told jurors during his closing arguments that if they have any doubt that Reed committed the shooting, they must not convict him. 

Reed had been in custody of the Douglas County jail on $500,000 cash or surety bond before and throughout his trial. He was released Wednesday afternoon.

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Maya Hodison (she/her), equity reporter, can be reached at mhodison (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

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