Small says he feared for his life

Defendant tries to build case he is not guilty of first-degree murder

As the first-degree murder trial of Derrick Ryan Small, 23, continued for a fourth day Monday in state district court, the defendant told jurors he joined the Air Force after high school and was a military police officer until he was discharged over drug offenses and a DWI.

Small is charged in the shooting death of Jalen Ortelli Handy, 20, in Westlake on Jan. 10, 2018, during a drug deal gone bad in which prosecutors said the victim was killed over “two fist-fulls of marijuana.”

The defendant told defense attorney Walt Sanchez that when he was in the Air Force, he guarded airplanes for up to 14 hours a day, that he never arrested anyone while a military police officer, and that he never used his gun during that time.

Small told Sanchez that he got caught “smoking weed” and was disciplined but that when he was caught smoking marijuana again, he was discharged from the Air Force.

He told the court that after his discharge, he began selling marijuana, bought a gun from a pawn shop, and that he lied on the form where it asked if he had a substance abuse problem.

Small, who went by the name “D Smalls” on Snapchat, said when he bought the gun he was “excited” and posted a photo of it on Snapchat with the caption: “Look who has a new toy.”

The defendant testified that on the night of the shooting, Handy came up to him and knocked on his car window. He said his door was open and that he stayed in the vehicle.

“I had the weed sitting on my left leg and my money clip on my right leg; I guess I was bragging about my money,” Small said.

“When I went to turn the dome light on in my car, I felt something jab me in the back and he (Handy) said something like, ‘I’m gonna get that (weed) or ‘Give me your money.’ All I could think at the time was, ‘Oh, (expletive). I’m about to die.’ “

Small said he grabbed his gun with both hands, got out of his car, turned and shot toward Handy.

“It was immediate,” he said. “I was scared I was going to die. I didn’t have time to think. I fired two shots; when I fired the second one, he (Handy) hit the ground.”

The defendant was arrested that night and was incarcerated in the Calcasieu Correctional Center until he bonded out of jail in May 2018.

Prosecutor Charles Robinson, in questioning Small, asked him when he first started selling marijuana and he said it was while he was in college, and it began about six months before the shooting. He said he could not remember the names of people who supplied him with marijuana or the names of his clients.

“But I usually would just sell to white college kids that looked like me because I didn’t want to get hurt or robbed,” Small said. “I stereotyped the people I would sell to.”

Small told Robinson that he had several “reprimands” while he was in the Air Force before being discharged and that those included offenses such as leaving his post, drug use, behavioral issues, and a DWI.

Robinson asked the defendant if there had been some inconsistencies in his testimony to jurors during the trial and he said, “Yes.”

Earlier, three different friends of Handy testified that he had told them that his plan on the night of the shooting had been to meet up with Small, grab the marijuana, and run. They told the court that he had committed similar robberies in the past.

They each testified that Handy had no weapon that night.

Calcasieu Parish coroner Terry Welke previously told jurors that after an autopsy, he was able to determine that the cause of death for Handy was “a gunshot wound to the back of his head.”

From hitting the ground when he fell forward after being shot, Welke said the victim also had abrasions to the face, bruising, lacerations, scrapes on his forehead, and scrapes on his knees and hands.

Trial is set to resume today in state district court.

‘I was scared I was going to die. I didn’t have time to think. I fired two shots.’

Derrick Small

On trial for first-degree murder of Jalen Handy

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