Judge Dal Williamson declared a mistrial in a case involving an Illinois man charged with aggravated assault against a Jones County Sheriff’s Department deputy.
The jury was ‘desperately deadlocked’ after hours of deliberation over the facts and testimony of Demetrius Nabors, who is accused of dragging Deputy Derick Knight with his vehicle as he fled the scene of a traffic check in September 2020. The trial is postponed to April 12.
Body and dash cam footage from the traffic stop was reviewed in detail by the defense and the state during the trial. Assistant District Attorney Kristen Martin said the state would start from scratch and try the case again.
“Of course I’m disappointed, but hopefully next time we’ll have a verdict,” Martin said.
Nabors’ attorney, CJ Lawrence III of Hattiesburg, said he was relieved that a mistrial had been declared, but only mildly.
“I know Demetrius was in a bad spot,” Lawrence said. “I want justice for everyone involved. After observing the situation, justice did not look like the charges passed to the jury.
The jury – made up of five black women, two white women, a black man and four white men – deliberated for three hours before it was determined they were deadlocked at 9-3. Nabors, 28, and Knight testified to their accounts of the events of the fateful traffic stop on Sharon-Sandersville Road on September 20, 2020.
Nabors testified that he was lost and trying to find his way to Walmart to see a girl when he was stopped by Knight on September 20, 2020 on Sandersville-Sharon Road after taking a wrong turn. Nabors said he swerved into the road because he was looking for a place to turn around, but that’s when Knight came up behind his vehicle.
Shortly after Knight observed him swerving and activated his police headlights, Nabors pulled into Fleet Services – what Nabors said was the “only well-lit area on the road to get his Stop”.
“In many cases like this we don’t have the luxury of having the video to watch, we just have someone’s word for what happened, but in this case we have the video,” Martin said.
Knight, unable to see inside the vehicle, asked Nabors to open his door as his window was not working. Knight asked for his driver’s license, if he had been drinking or smoking and if he had any weapons in the vehicle, the footage shows. Nabors said he did not feel safe and asked for a “white shirt”, meaning a shift supervisor.
“Demetrius Nabors twice asked for a white shirt at the scene because he didn’t feel safe – he was scared,” Lawrence said. “Demetrius asked for a supervisor because he didn’t feel safe. He didn’t deliberately try to hurt Derick Knight that night.
Knight testified that Nabors swerved all the way – as seen in dash cam footage – and stopped him for a traffic stop. Knight testified that he saw a gun in the vehicle, while Nabors testified that there was no gun. Knight asked Nabors to get out of his vehicle to perform a sobriety test because he smelled like marijuana. Nabors asks, “Am I detained,” to which Knight replies, “Yes,” and the situation has changed drastically.
Nabors attempted to close his door as Deputy Knight rushed into the cab. Knight was dragged from the vehicle in the middle of the road, causing his right shoulder to separate and compression fractures to his T2, T3 and T4 vertebrae. It was not determined during the trial whether or not a firearm was in the vehicle.
It all happened quickly and everyone had to make a split-second decision, Martin said.
“You didn’t see him draw his gun until after Nabors fled. (Knight) hears a gunshot and fires his gun,” Martin said. “Deputy Knight mistakenly thought he had been shot, but what he knew for sure was that he had been injured.”
Knight then attempted to get back into his patrol vehicle to pursue Nabors but called for medical help as his right arm was not functioning properly. At the time of the incident, Knight believed he had been shot due to pain in his back.
Nabors may have been scared that night, but not Knight, Martin says.
“He was scared to go back to jail because he was a felon who had a gun in the vehicle… when he backed that car up with a deputy sheriff with him, if not extreme indifference to life , I don’t know what is.”
In the scuffle, Knight testified that he believed he heard a gunshot as Nabors tried to flee. Knight fired one shot at Nabors’ vehicle and missed. Knight was left on the roadway as two bystanders, whose Nabors Buick LaSabre truck hit as he drove away, tried to help him while they waited for medical personnel to arrive.
Nabors surrendered to police six days later. Nabors had multiple arrests and two convictions in 2018 and 2019 on his record. One was for manufacturing and distributing a controlled substance and the other was for being a felon in possession of a firearm. He had several other arrests dating back to 2008 in Joilet, Illinois.