HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – Testimony continues for the third day in the 2020 shooting death of a Hot Springs Police officer.
Kayvon Ward, 22, of Hot Springs, is charged with capital murder, aggravated assault, possession of a defaced firearm and resisting arrest.
Officer 1st Class Brent Scrimshire was a six-year veteran of the Hot Springs force at the time of his death. He was shot March 10, 2020 after stopping an SUV driven by Ward for running a stop sign.
July 27 updates:
The morning opened with continued prosecution testimony. Arkansas State Police Lead Investigator assigned to the Scrimshire shooting Corwin Battle testified he interviewed Ward at the hospital.
Ward did not want to speak about the shooting itself, but about Coraima Hernandez, 20, of Hot Springs, the mother of his child, currently in the Garland County jail with charges related to the March 2020 incident, Battle said.
(Hernandez is currently held in the Garland County Detention Center on charges including capital murder and aggravated assault upon a law enforcement officer.)
“Mister Ward was fairly calm. He was quiet, hard to hear at times,” Battle testified. “He wanted to talk about his child’s mother.”
Battle’s testimony continued: “He just didn’t understand why she [Hernandez] didn’t get to go home.” He didn’t understand why she was being charged,” and “He was worried that she was going to face the death penalty. I told him I couldn’t answer at that time.”
“He was basically trying to say she wasn’t involved,” Battle said.
Prosecution testimony concluded with a defense motion for a directed verdict due to prosecution not proving its case, a typical action in capital cases. Prosecution was responding to show it had acted properly in presenting its case.
At the morning break, the courtroom was being set up for a Zoom video call to hear defense testimony from Ward’s mother, who has tested positive for COVID-19. This is the first time a Zoom call has been used in a Garland County courtroom.
Yesterday’s testimony was made up of prosecution witnesses regarding Scrimshire’s wounds and department officers describing the shooting scene and evidence recovered. The jury was shown Scrimshire’s body armor worn the night of the shooting after a bullet entered his body above the vest. The jury was also show pictures of Ward’s injuries.
Ward concluded his testimony. When asked if he had any remorse, he responded “I would never wish this on anybody. I’ve been on their end multiple times.”
The defense’s next witness was Benjamin Silber, a psychologist with Arkansas State Hospital who had been called upon by the public defender to analyze Ward, who he diagnosed with schizophrenia.
The defense, in opening arguments, said that Ward having schizophrenia was the reason he could not do anything premeditated, such as murder.
Silber said Ward fit three of the five categories for schizophrenia: delusions, hallucinations and negative symptoms. The latter category would affect his motivation, Silber told the jury, and that some of his diagnosis came from “collateral contact” with Ward’s family.
Ward only acknowledged his mental health issues the Friday before trial, July 22, Silber said.
“The last time he [Ward] heard a voice was prior to his arrest,” Silber said, adding that Ward had not heard any voices while in jail. This meant Ward was in remission, Silber testified.
“He tended to deny he had mental health problems of downplay them,” Silber said about Ward.
Defense continued in the afternoon, with Zachary Ward, who referred to himself as the “Godbrother” of Ward due to their families being very close.
“He was really quiet, didn’t really bother anyone,” Barnett said about Ward, noting “We went from every day, hanging out, to him [Ward] distancing himself.”
“He wouldn’t come out of his room,” Barnett told the jury.
A particular incident was Aug. 18, 2019 when Barnett went to where Ward was living, a home he shared with Barnett’s son.
“My son was there,” Barnett said. “There was a certain room he [Ward] was in. I didn’t know if he was in there. I heard someone say ‘Don’t go in there.’ I turned around and saw the gun.”
Ward, Barnett said, opened the door, looked at him, then shot him. They did not have any problems up to that shooting. Ward opened the door and shot him, the entire exchange taking about 4 seconds, Barnett told the jury. Barnett said he was shot in the abdomen, just below the fifth rib.
Right after being shot by Ward Barnett said he raised his hands and said: “Don’t shoot me again.”
In response Ward smirked and went back into his room, Barnett testified.
After being shot, Barnett was driven to the hospital, where he spent four days. There was no investigation into the shooting, he said.
The next defense witness was Tony Hines, a former football coach in Hot Springs.
“Ward was determined to make something of himself,” Hines said. “He was a smart kid; he was a very smart kid.”
Hines said a few days before the shooting he tried to get Ward to be a coach of Pee Wee football as a running back coach. Shortly afterward he saw Ward at a stop sign and thought Ward was on drugs, he told the jury.
Testing at the time of the March shooting showed Ward was not on drugs.
This was followed by testimony from Betty Giles, who told the jury she considered herself Ward’s grandmother after her son married Ward’s mother.
She gave Ward’s mother advice in 2019, saying “She was going to need to get him [Ward] some help. He wasn’t acting right.”
Ward never coming out of his room was one of the things which drew her to this conclusion.
“I sensed there was a problem with him [Ward],” Giles said.
This story was updated throughout the day.