A Richmond County jury on Wednesday decided that Erik Williams was responsible for firing the shots that killed a Fort Gordon military police officer off post in 2010. The judge sentenced the 22-year-old to prison for the rest of his life.
Williams was found guilty of felony murder and malice murder about five hours after he testified he had fired the shots at Sanctuary Apartments in self-defense. He was also convicted of aggravated assault and two counts of possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime.
After tearful testimony from both families, Williams directly addressed the family of DeAngelo Hudgins, the slain officer,, apologizing for what happened and accepting responsibility for what he called an accident.
Superior Court Judge Carl Brown wasn’t convinced, however, that the apology was sincere. Brown expressed concern about Williams’ criminal record and that a gun was used in the crime.
“Once (guns) are injected into a situation ... and used, the consequences are irreversible,” Brown said.
The judge sentenced Williams to life in prison without parole, with a consecutive sentence of 25 years for the other crimes.
Three days of testimony gave different versions of the events leading up to the gunfire that killed Hudgins, 25, and injured Albert Gilbert.
Hudgins went to a party that night with his girlfriend and others, then got in a fight in the back seat of a car with a woman. Some witnesses said he choked her; his girlfriend, Atalecia Anderson, testified Wednesday that Hudgins pinned the woman’s arms down to keep her from scratching his face.
The group split up after the fight, but Hudgins later got into a shoving match with the woman’s brother, Tony Davis. Davis fled to the apartments and called Williams for help.
While Williams was en route with his co-defendant, Edwin Cruz, Hudgins and Gilbert went to the apartments to continue the confrontation. Davis wouldn’t open the door, so the pair returned to their car.
Gilbert said in court that he and Hudgins were trying to leave when another car pulled behind them and blocked their exit. They got out to talk with the people in the car when shots rang out.
Williams testified that he and Cruz were looking for Davis’ apartment when a big man rushed the car in an aggressive manner. The man leaned into the car and reached behind his back as if for a weapon, Williams said, so he picked up a gun off the floorboard and fired a shot. He then fired in the direction of another man behind Hudgins.
He acknowledged under questioning by Assistant District Attorney Adam King that he didn’t immediately call police, that he sold the murder weapon for $150 and didn’t surrender to investigators until a month after the incident.
He gave several explanations for his past two felony convictions, which King characterized as passing the blame onto others.
“So you want the jury to believe this killing wasn’t your fault either?” King said.
“I want them to know it was self-defense,” Williams said.