HOWLAND, Ohio (WKBN) – Jury selection began Wednesday in a Trumbull County capital murder case, where the suspect says he was being terrorized and had no choice but to protect himself.
Just nine months after a deadly shooting in Howland Township, the man charged with the crime is about to stand trial.
The case against 48-year-old Nasser Hamad has taken many turns since prosecutors say he shot five people in a public display of violence outside his home on busy Route 46 last February, killing two of them.
The court and counsel are faced with a big task — picking 12 impartial jurors and four alternates from a pool of 173.
“I will not decide this case, you will. Your verdict will decide the disputed issues of fact and determine what we all seek here in this trial, and that is the truth,” Judge Ronald Rice said.
The case has garnered much attention because Hamad has maintained that he had been harassed by his girlfriend’s family for months. He claims he was being threatened and feared for his life the day he opened fire on his victims.
Hamad has said that threats from the family and friends of his then-girlfriend Tracy Hendrickson started on social media and escalated to the deadly confrontation at his house.
That’s why outside the courthouse on Wednesday, a group of Hamad’s supporters chanted and held signs.
“Here’s a man who protected himself and his family and his property from intruders, was beaten on his property, and now he’s being charged for protecting himself with a weapon,” said Don Bryant, with the Greater Cleveland Immigrant Support Network.
The demonstrators said they’ll be outside the courthouse, holding signs and spreading their message throughout the trial.
Joshua Williams and Josh Haber were killed in the shooting. Bryce Hendrickson, April Trent (Vokes), and John Shivley were injured. Hendrickson died months after the shooting from unrelated causes.
Prosecutors say Hamad coaxed the group to his home to fight. In court documents, prosecutors reveal a barrage of social media posts from Hamad, taunting the group and berating them, saying, “I waiting and blind open…I never call 911 don’t worry.”
When the group arrived, prosecutors say a fight broke out but the altercation ended when Hamad went inside his house, got a gun, came back outside, and opened fire on the five victims.
Hamad’s attorney maintains that his client was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder when the shooting happened.
Hamad is charged with two counts of capital murder and three counts of attempted murder. He has refused to pursue a plea deal and has maintained that he acted in self-defense.
Judge Rice has imposed strict rules in the high-profile case. He has banned any signs or banners and will not permit any gathering or protesting in certain areas. The demonstrators on Wednesday were in a so-called “safe zone.”