Corey Stoddard will remain free, though under high-intensity supervision, after a judge found probable cause that he committed voluntary manslaughter when he hit Kevin Lewis Crouch with his tow truck.
Attorneys on both sides agreed Wednesday that Stoddard was the victim of a violent armed robbery committed by Crouch moments before his death. But they disagree about whether Stoddard was defending himself when he drove his tow truck over Crouch.
Prosecutors allege that Stoddard drove on to the sidewalk of Kenilworth Avenue Northeast and ran over Crouch in an effort to retrieve his wallet. Defense attorney Eugene Ohm says that Crouch was pointing a gun at Stoddard when Stoddard was driving the truck.
On Dec. 31, police found Crouch suffering from significant trauma on the sidewalk in 1300 block of Kenilworth Avenue Northeast. Crouch was then transported to a local hospital where he succumbed to his injuries and was pronounced dead.
Charging documents say that at Collision Towing Company, Crouch pulled a dark handgun from his clothes and pointed it at Stoddard, his coworker, and a customer, saying he intended to rob the men. All three men began to run away, but Stoddard slipped and fell, documents say.
Metropolitan Police Detective Gabriel Truby testified that Crouch was not found carrying a firearm, but a bb gun that resembled a handgun. The BB gun was discovered underneath Crouch’s body after he had been run over.
In charging documents, Stoddard told police that Crouch ran up to him on the ground and struck him twice on the head with the gun. He threw his wallet in the opposite direction and ran to his tow truck. When Crouch chased him, Stoddard ran him over, he told police.
Det. Truby testified that video footage captured the robbery, including Crouch striking Stoddard and Stoddard throwing an object away. On Wednesday, Truby said that Crouch picked up the object, then “re-engaged” Stoddard in what may have been another attack.
But shortly after that, Crouch and Stoddard “left each other’s presence,” said Truby. About “20 to 30 seconds later,” a tow truck can be seen leaving the premise, testified Truby. A second video depicted a white tow truck driving down the sidewalk of Kenilworth Avenue.
Truby also noted that police found Crouch without a jacket and without pants. Truby said that Stoddard later told detectives that he took Crouch’s pants and jacket in an attempt to recover his wallet after he ran over Crouch.
Assistant US Attorney Edward O’Connell argued that when Stoddard chased Crouch after a 20 to 30 second pause, Stoddard lost his claim to self-defense because the robbery was over. Furthermore, Stoddard used an “unreasonable” amount of force when he drove over Crouch to retrieve his belongings.
Ohm, Stoddard’s defense attorney, argued that Crouch brandished a weapon at Stoddard while Stoddard drove. He further argued that Stoddard was not legally obligated to retreat; Stoddard had a right to check on his coworker and collect information about where Crouch was running, Ohm said.
Judge Russell Canan ruled that there was probable cause and that the circumstances that provoked Stoddard to pursue Crouch indicated “adequate provocation” for voluntary manslaughter.
Regarding the allegations that Stoddard had tampered with his GPS device while enrolled in high intensity supervision, Judge Canan told Stoddard he would “give him the benefit of the doubt” and allow him to remain released in the program. Judge Canan cautioned Stoddard that in the event of any more problems, Stoddard would go to jail.
The case is scheduled for a felony status conference March 21.