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Published: Tuesday, 3/20/2012 - Updated: 2 years ago

2 testify they saw suspect in North Toledo store robbery

BY ERICA BLAKE
BLADE STAFF WRITER
The trial for Joseph Hunter gets under way in Lucas County Common Pleas Court in Toledo.  Hunter is charged with aggravated robbery and involuntary manslaughter related to the robbery of the Express Carryout in North Toledo. Lamar Allen, the second man allegedly involved in the robbery, was shot and killed by the store clerk. The trial for Joseph Hunter gets under way in Lucas County Common Pleas Court in Toledo. Hunter is charged with aggravated robbery and involuntary manslaughter related to the robbery of the Express Carryout in North Toledo. Lamar Allen, the second man allegedly involved in the robbery, was shot and killed by the store clerk.
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As they walked toward a neighborhood carryout on an early November morning, friends Jeff Price and Lawrence Johnson saw a man they knew running toward them in an alley carrying a gun.

Moments later, they heard gunshots and learned that the clerk at the Express Carryout had just shot one of two armed intruders.

The two men testified in Lucas County Common Pleas Court Tuesday at the trial of Joseph Hunter, who is one of two men accused of robbing the Mulberry Street carryout, and where the clerk is accused of shooting and killing his alleged accomplice.

Hunter, 26, is charged with aggravated robbery, felonious assault, attempted murder, and involuntary manslaughter, each with gun specifications.

"I seen Mr. Hunter run past me," Mr. Price testified. "He ran past me, he had a gun, and I froze. He kept running, so I kept going."

During opening statements, Assistant County Prosecutor Mark Herr told the jury of six men and six women that Hunter and an accomplice, Lamar Allen, armed themselves with guns, donned hoods and masks, and confronted the clerk at the carryout at the corner of Mulberry and Page streets. While there, Allen was shot and killed by the clerk and Hunter ran from the store, Mr. Herr said.

It was on his way from the store, and while shots were still being fired inside, that he came across Mr. Price and Mr. Lawrence, Mr. Herr said.

Mr. Herr explained that in addition to aggravated robbery, Hunter is charged with felonious assault and attempted murder for shooting at the clerk as Hunter left the store. He is charged with involuntary manslaughter because it was his criminal actions that resulted in the death of his accomplice, Mr. Herr told jurors.

"But for the armed robbery, Mr. Allen doesn't die," he said. "But for this defendant's participation in the armed robbery, Lamar Allen is here today."

Defense attorney Phillip Carlisle told jurors during opening statements that Hunter was "wrongfully accused" of the crimes. He said that jurors would learn that Hunter was at his sister's house across town on the morning of the incident and that she saw him there in both the morning and early afternoon.

During the testimony of Mr. Price and Mr. Johnson, Mr. Carlisle questioned why neither man reported to police what they saw immediately after it happened but instead waited until detectives contacted them weeks later. Mr. Price said he didn't want "to get involved," noting that he had a family to raise.

Both men said they were familiar with Hunter and both selected him in a photo lineup, they testified.

Prior to hearing the first witnesses, jurors were escorted to the carryout at 1920 Mulberry St., where they where asked to take notice of video surveillance cameras both inside and outside the store as well as the monitors hanging above the counter. The jurors were also asked to walk down an alley that runs parallel to Mulberry between Page and Moore streets.

Jurors did not hear information about a related case in which the clerk, Bandar Abu-Karsh, has been charged with voluntary manslaughter for Allen's shooting death. A March 28 hearing date has been set in that case.

More witnesses are expected to testify Wednesday during the trial, which is before Judge Stacy Cook.

Contact Erica Blake at: eblake@theblade.com or 419-213-2134.



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