Jury seated, testimony begins in Levels shooting

May 8—LIMA — Believing he had just witnessed the beginning of a mass shooting event, Lima resident Deontray Forrest shot Timothy White outside Levels Lounge on the morning of Feb. 4, 2020.

He did so not just in defense of himself but out of fear that others would suffer serious bodily harm.

That was the synopsis given to jurors Monday by Columbus attorney James Owen during opening statements in Forrest's murder trial. Owen said witness testimony and evidence presented during the trial will show his client acted within the boundaries of Ohio's self-defense statutes when he shot and killed White.

Allen County Prosecuting Attorney Destiny Caldwell said Forrest shot White as White was running down an alleyway outside the bar, then attempted to hide the gun used in the shooting. Forrest also denied any knowledge of the shooting when initially questioned by law enforcement, the prosecutor said, describing the actions as those of a guilty man.

Jurors were seated Monday afternoon for what is expected to be a week-long trial in Allen County Common Pleas Court. Their first order of business was to take an in-person visit to the former Levels Lounge property in downtown Lima where three people died from gunshot wounds on that February 2020 morning.

Forrest is charged with two counts of murder, unclassified felonies, along with a second-degree felony charge of felonious assault that includes gang and firearm specifications, in connection with the shooting death of White. Prosecutors and the defense attorney agree that White had shot and killed Devontae Upshaw, 24, and his own brother, Terell McGraw, 28, inside the bar just minutes before White himself was gunned down.

After White had killed the two victims, including accidentally shooting his brother in the head, he left the bar and went into the parking lot, Owen told jurors. Forrest followed, fearing that White was going to harm a friend who was in a vehicle outside the bar. The attorney said White and Forrest exchanged three shots "almost simultaneously" and added that Forrest wasn't certain he had hit White with a shot.

Wrapping up his statement to jurors, Owen acknowledged that Forrest "is not a model citizen" and has "pretty much lived a life of crime" since arrests that started as a juvenile. But on the night in question "Deontray will testify that he was scared and that he was thinking about himself and every other person in that bar."

Officers from the Lima Police Department responded in the early morning hours of Feb. 4 to the bar at 122 E. North St. and found McGraw and Upshaw dead inside the establishment. White's body was found on the sidewalk outside the bar. All three victims had suffered gunshot wounds, and all were deceased when police arrived, according to police reports at the time.

Testimony in the trial will resume Tuesday morning.