The trial of Keith Allen in the shooting of Brett Torres entered its third day Thursday, with most of the testimony and exhibits about what police found that afternoon at the crime scene.
Allen is charged first-degree murder and use of a deadly weapon to commit a felony. He pleaded not guilty to both charges, claiming he acted in self-defense.
Lincoln County Attorney Rebecca Harling started Thursday’s session by calling two medical professionals from Great Plains Health hospital.
And, for the rest of the day, Deputy County Attorney Tanya Roberts-Connick methodically presented evidence compiled by local law enforcement, painting a picture of what took place on the day of the alleged murder.
Harling began by calling Dr. Julie Query, the Emergency Room physician who administered life-saving measures to Torres when he arrived at Great Plains Health.
Query testified about Torres’ gunshot wounds, with Harling asking follow-up questions to translate the medical terms into layman terms.
Query testified that, despite all the efforts by the medical team in ER, Torres never had a heartbeat nor took a breath at the hospital and was “not responsive to any stimulation whatsoever.”
After 10-20 minutes trying to revive Torres, the 25-year-old was pronounced dead at 3:09 p.m. that afternoon – May 22, 2020.
Next, Harling called GPH Physician’s Assistant Cameron Ourada, who examined Allen at the hospital that day. Ourada said Allen was brought to GPH by law officers after he complained of chest pains and pain in his left arm. Ourada walked the jury through the tests given to Allen for determining a heart condition. During these tests, Ourada said Allen’s demeanor was “anxious, restless,” and although his heart rate was fast, it was not of concern.
Upon completion of his exam of Allen, Ourada found that, “the tests were all normal,” concerning the possibility of a heart attack. Ourada diagnosed Allen with anxiety and prescribed the sedative Antivan. Ourada testified that he ultimately deemed Allen fit for confinement and Allen was returned to law officers.
On cross-examination, Defense Attorney Todd Lancaster asked Qurada what Allen’s heart rate was at the time of the examination. Qurada said Allen had an elevated heart rate and was sweating heavily, symptoms that could be signs of a heart attack that needed to be checked by a medical professional. Lancaster asked whether Allen described prior medical conditions of sciatica and fibromyalgia. Qurada confirmed that Allen complained of those conditions when discussing his medical history.
Next, around 10 a.m., Roberts-Connick called North Platte Police Investigator Justin Erickson to the stand.
The two spent the rest of the day presenting evidence gathered by investigators, including more than 50 exhibits that were compiled in developing the case against Allen.
Erickson testified that he was at his desk at 2:30-2:32 p.m. that day when the call came about the shooting at 2nd and Chestnut, which was blocks away from the police station. Erickson immediately headed there, and while enroute he received another dispatch with the address — 101 N. Chestnut.
Upon arrival, Erickson testified that other law officers were already on the scene, as well as an hysterical female, who was later identified as Amanda Beall, Torres’ ex-girlfriend, and a male in handcuffs, who was identified as Allen.
Erickson said he saw two automobiles, an older model Ford Focus and an older model Chevy Tahoe, parked side-to-side on the north side of the house at 101 N. Chestnut. Both cars were facing west.
Erickson saw the driver’s side door of the Tahoe slightly open with a large man slumped over in the driver’s seat. One of his legs protruded from the door.
Erickson was unable to elicit a response from the victim but noted a considerable amount of blood throughout the vehicle. Later, testimony established that the cars were 30 inches apart.
The passenger door of the Focus, containing Allen in the passenger seat, and the driver’s side door of the Tahoe, containing Torres in the driver’s seat, were aligned.
Erickson’s testimony was supplemented by several aerial pictures of the area from Google, as well as numerous photographs taken on the ground at the crime scene.
The photographs contained pictures of many pieces of evidence. In this regard, Roberts-Connick methodically presented the photos, as well as Erickson’s testimony about the evidence, and the actual evidence itself.
Of the evidence presented to the jury, the most attention came when Erickson walked to the front of the jury box to show the handgun that was used in the shooting and the ammunition that was found in Allen’s home.
Three of the jurors motioned for Erickson to rotate the bullets so they could see them more closely.
As for the series of events that day, Erickson established that Beall was driving the Focus, having picked up Allen to give him a ride home. Torres was driving the Tahoe in the vicinity of Allen’s house.
Erickson’s testimony was supported by security videos from the exterior of the Federal Building, located at 300 E. Third. The video came from cameras on the northeast and southeast corners of the building. The videos were used by both the prosecution and defense to show the vehicles near the house just seconds before the incident.
A 911 call from Beall was played for the court, but little evidence came from it, as Beall was hysterical and mostly unintelligible. She was unable to even provide the dispatcher with the address of the incident.
The only clear information from the call came when a voice identified as Allen’s came on. He gave the address, and stated that he was defending himself.
Allen later made a 911 call himself. He again gave the address and told the dispatcher, “I was just supposed to defend myself from someone in the alley.”
After an out-of-court discussion between Lincoln County District Judge Richard Birch and the prosecution and defense teams, it was decided that Erickson would provide evidence from Erickson’s interview of Beall on May 26, 2020, rather than Beall testifying herself, as Beall could not be present at the trial. No reason was given for her unavailability.
Beall told Erickson that she and Allen had been in an intimate relationship in the past, but it ended before she began an on-and-off relationship with Torres. Beall acknowledged that her relationship with Torres was unhealthy, and that Torres was unhappy with her.
Erickson, with the help of exhibits submitted by Roberts-Connick, established that nine shell casings were found at the scene, with seven casings found around the rear of Focus. Another casing was under the car, and one was on the car’s front windshield.
The fourth day of the trial Friday is expected to conclude around noon. Overall, the trial is scheduled to last into next week.
© 2021 The North Platte Bulletin. All rights reserved.