Yves Garner joined the Four Corner Hustlers gang in Chicago when he was 8. Members of the gang were beating him up every day on his way to and from school, so he joined the gang, he told a Fayette Circuit Court jury on Wednesday.
Now Garner, 33, stands accused of murdering the leader of the Lexington branch of the gang, Henry "Hank" Means, 35, on July 20, 2008.
Garner told the jury that he shot Means, but said that if he hadn't, he, his wife and children, and friend Markel Davis would have been killed. All of them had seen Henry Means' brother, David "Shorty" Means, kill their good friend Jamal Covington two months earlier, Garner said.
Garner's wife, Teresa, was determined to testify against David Means before a grand jury on July 21, 2008, according to the defense. On Tuesday, Davis told jurors he wanted to testify, too. Henry Means had been trying to get witnesses not to testify against his brother, Yves and Teresa Garner told the jury.
Henry Means saw Yves Garner, Davis and their friend Elisha Wade at Lexington's Douglass Park earlier on July 20. All had been drinking. The four left the park and went to a house in the vicinity. When Davis and Wade left to get something to eat, Means and Garner walked up and down the street talking, according to court testimony.
During the walk, Henry Means told Yves Garner that he would kill Teresa Garner if she testified against his brother the next day, Yves Garner testified.
"Then he turned around and said, 'I'm going to take out Bitch Boy first,'" Garner said. Means was referring to Davis, he said.
After Davis and Wade returned from a fast-food restaurant, Means told Davis to come with him, and Davis got into Means' car, Garner said.
"I couldn't let him kill Mark," Garner said.
Henry Means, with Markel Davis in tow, headed for Around the Korner bar on Anniston Drive. Garner and Wade arrived there a short time later, according to court testimony.
Garner said he saw Davis outside the bar and motioned for Davis to get into his SUV. At some point, Means asked Garner, "Why are you protecting Bitch Boy?" Seconds later Means told Garner "You can get yours right now," Garner testified.
Means reached under his shirt. Garner thought he was reaching for a gun, so Garner pulled out his gun and shot him, Garner said.
Garner said Means started yelling, "You're dead! You're dead!"
"I emptied my clip into him," Garner said.
A forensic pathologist testified Tuesday that Means was shot nine times in the head and torso and that several of the wounds by themselves could have killed him.
Garner told the jury how he had tried to get away from the Four Corner Hustlers. He told them the only way to quit the gang was to turn 60 or be in a coffin.
In 1997, after his best friend, Jonathan Davenport, was shot to death in broad daylight by the gang in Chicago, Garner decided to tell authorities what he knew about the killing, he said. But the gang got to Garner first.
"They slit my throat ... I was shot four times," Garner said, crying. A man and woman found Garner and called paramedics. In addition to being shot multiple times, he had been slashed over much of his body, he said. Garner hid from the gang after he was released from a hospital, he said.
Later he met Teresa in Chicago. They moved to Missouri, where she had family, and were married there. The Garners had four children, now ages 13, 11, 9 and 6. But Yves Garner got into trouble for making a false statement on an application to buy a firearm. He was trying to protect his identity — to keep safe from the Four Corner Hustlers, he explained to the jury.
After he was convicted in a federal court in Missouri, Yves Garner was sent to a Lexington prison. He liked Lexington, he said. Teresa Garner and the children followed him there.
Yves Garner said he didn't know that there were Four Corner Hustlers members in Lexington when he decided to stay here after being released from prison. Then Jamal Covington, a co-worker at a local company, overheard Garner talking on the phone to a cousin in Chicago and deduced that Garner might belong to the gang, Garner said.
"I became nervous," Garner said. But he told Covington he was a member. Garner became friends with Covington and later the Means brothers, all members of the Four Corner Hustlers.
Henry Means was a "Three Star Universal" in the gang. To get a star, you had to rob or kill somebody, Garner said.
The Four Corner Hustlers "seemed different down here," Garner said. "They didn't seem wild. They wasn't fighting everybody." He said the gang in Lexington had about 20 members and liked to have barbecues and go bowling.
But things changed after Covington was killed, Garner said.
Closing arguments in the case are expected Thursday.