‘Shot over two fist-fulls of marijuana’

Prosecutors paint the scene of how Westlake man lost his life in drug deal gone bad

The first-degree murder trial of Derrick Ryan Small, 23, got under way in state district court on Wednesday with prosecutors saying that the defendant went by the nickname “D Smalls” on a cell phone app that he would use to connect with people to sell them marijuana.

Small is charged in the murder of Jalen Ortelli Handy, 20, of Westlake on Jan. 10, 2018.

Officers with the Westlake Police Department responded to shots being fired that evening at 1601 Sampson St.

When police arrived at the scene, they found Handy lying face down on the ground and administered CPR until Acadian Ambulance arrived but he succumbed to his injuries, authorities said.

Judge Robert Wyatt addressed the courtroom as the trial began and said he would not tolerate outbursts from either side during the proceedings.

The courtroom was packed with family and friends of both the defendant and the victim.

Prosecutor Charles Robinson told jurors in his opening statement that a friend of Handy’s had earlier met Small through the Snapchat app and that Handy wanted to connect with Small but intended to grab the drugs from him instead of paying for them.

“Three friends, along with Jalen, set out that night to meet Small but one friend told Jalen, ” ‘Don’t do it; he’s going to shoot you,’ ” Robinson said, adding that the friend, in his earlier interaction with Small said he had seen that the defendant had a knife and a gun in his vehicle.

“Evidence will show that he (Handy) was over 60 feet away and running in the opposite direction when he was shot by the defendant,” Robinson said. “Jalen had the worst idea of his life that night. He was shot over two fist-fulls of marijuana. This was not necessary; there were other options.”

Defense attorney Walt Sanchez said that there have been several “stories” from Handy’s friends of that night and that prosecutors are choosing just one of them.

“But his (Handy’s) friend says on police video that he saw a punch from Handy to Derrick and Handy ran,” Sanchez said. “The defendant had the right to defend himself. Handy took off running and Derrick fired twice. Mr. Handy is on the ground and Derrick immediately calls 911.”

Sanchez said that jurors have the right to “all of the evidence.”

“This is tough on everyone,” he said. “I feel the weight of Derrick’s life in my hands.”

Sgt. Brandon Peresich of the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office, testified about investigating at the scene that night.

He pointed to photos that showed spent shell casings while other graphic photos showed the body of the victim on the ground next to a pool of blood. Several family members of Handy left the courtroom at that point while a couple of others cried softly.

A bond hearing was held before Wyatt in May of 2018 at which time Small pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder but he is being tried for first-degree murder, according to the Calcasieu Parish District Attorney’s Office.

At that hearing, his bond was reduced from $1 million to $250,000 and he bonded out that day.

Prosecutors said before he bonded out of jail, Small had “bragged” in a jail phone call that he “already had a second-degree murder charge under his belt.”

Sanchez said he may have been “talking big” in order to protect himself in jail.

The trial is set to resume today in state district court.””

Derrick Ryan Small is accused in the murder of Jalen Ortelli Handy of Westlake on Jan. 10, 2018.

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