Video confession shown in Ark. soldier death trial
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Jurors in the capital murder trial of a man charged with shooting two soldiers in Little Rock watched two videos on Thursday of him confessing to police and at least one FBI agent.
In both videos, recorded shortly after his arrest in 2009, Abdulhakim Muhammad sat un-handcuffed in a police interrogation room. He told investigators he shot the uniformed soldiers outside of a Little Rock military recruiting station after watching a video about a Muslim woman being raped.
One of the soldiers, 23-year-old Pvt. William Andrew Long, died.
Muhammad spoke at length about the shootings, which he said were justified because of his faith as a Muslim.
"The Quran says fight those who fight you," Muhammad said.
Muhammad, born Carlos Bledsoe in Memphis, Tenn., converted to Islam while he was in college. He is charged with capital murder for killing Long and attempted capital murder for wounding Pvt. Quinton Ezeagwula. His defense lawyers say he is mentally ill, though he and prosecutors disagree. If they can't win his acquittal, Muhammad's attorneys hope to keep him off death row.
In court on Thursday, the 26-year-old Muhammad looked down for a few moments while the videos were being played. But he spoke out for the second time during his trial this week when an investigator in the video pointed out that Long's mother witnessed him opening fire on her son.
"Objection," Muhammad said, raising his right index finger. "I didn't know she was there."
In the audience, Long's mother, Janet, sat next to her husband and a few other relatives. She stared straight ahead, chewing gum. On Wednesday, she testified about hearing gunshots ring out as she sat in the parking lot. She had dropped her son off.
Later, Pulaski County Circuit Judge Herbert Wright chided Muhammad.
"If you have an objection, you've got two attorneys," he said. "Communicate with them."
Until Thursday, prosecutors had mostly kept quiet about federal involvement in Muhammad's case. They treated it like a drive-by shooting, another horrific crime committed with a gun.
But the introduction of federal agents revives questions about the lack of federal charges in the case. Steven Frazier, a spokesman for the FBI in Little Rock, declined to comment Thursday. A spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's office didn't immediately respond to a message.
In the videos, Muhammad said he didn't plan the attacks.
"I just made up my mind to retaliate," Muhammad said.
Tommy Hudson, a Little Rock police detective, testified that the officers who questioned Muhammad did not keep him in handcuffs during the interrogation because he was well-behaved.
"I don't have anything against police," Muhammad said in the video. "It's just the Army."
In court Thursday, Ezeagwula wore the same type of Army fatigues he had worn the day of the shooting, even though Muhammad's father, Melvin Bledsoe, had asked the judge not to allow anyone to testify in uniform.
Defense attorney Patrick Benca said Muhammad changed around the time he turned 18. He started looking into religions outside his parents' Baptist faith — Catholicism, Buddhism, Islam — and became a Muslim in college. In 2007, he traveled to Yemen, where extremists are known to seek sanctuary. He was later deported back to the U.S., where he briefly lived with his parents.
Jeannie Nuss can be reached at http://twitter.com/jeannienuss