Court hears 2 different stories in West Seattle slaying trial
Defense attorneys for Lovett “Cid” Chambers are claiming he killed a 35-year-old stranger in self-defense, but the state says Chambers, 69, was drunk when he fatally shot Travis Hood in the back for no apparent reason outside a West Seattle bar in January 2012.
Seattle Times staff reporter
A King County jury Wednesday heard very different versions of events of the night in January 2012 when Lovett “Cid” Chambers fatally shot a 35-year-old stranger in the back outside a West Seattle bar.
Chambers, 69, is charged with second-degree murder for killing Michael “Travis” Hood, who had recently moved to Seattle from Jacksonville, Fla., and was celebrating his first paycheck at the Feedback Lounge with his best friend, Jonathan “Jaime” Vause.
Prosecutors argued in opening statements that Chambers was heavily intoxicated and shot Hood for no apparent reason. But the defense argued that Chambers, who is black, felt threatened by the two white men and fired in self-defense.
The trial before Superior Court Judge Theresa Doyle is expected to last six weeks.
Should Chambers be convicted, the state intends to argue he is a persistent offender, a designation that would land him in prison for life, court records show.
Chambers, who owned a small IT business in West Seattle before his arrest, has convictions for bank robbery, kidnapping and other felonies committed between 1961 and 1980 and has used a variety of aliases during his lifetime, the records say.
King County Deputy Prosecutor Mari Isaacson said Wednesday that for unknown reasons, Chambers retrieved a gun from his blue BMW around 9:30 p.m. on Jan. 12, 2012. He waited outside the bar for the two men, then trailed Hood for more than 200 feet as he headed to Vause’s pickup, which was parked facing south on California Avenue Southwest, she said.
Isaacson told jurors that as Chambers closed in behind him, Hood grabbed a shovel from the truck bed, took up a batter’s stance and asked, “What are you going to do now?” When Chambers pulled a .45-caliber pistol from his pocket, Hood dropped the shovel, yelled a warning to his friend and tried to jump into the truck’s open passenger-side door but wasn’t fast enough, Isaacson said.
A bullet to his chest exited his left arm, the wound consistent with Hood holding his arm by his side, Isaacson said. Two other bullets struck Hood in the back, one of them severing an artery, she said. He died the next day at Harborview Medical Center.
Chambers, who had been drinking martinis since 4 or 5 p.m., drove home and put his gun on the kitchen table, where police found it along with extra magazines of ammunition that matched shell casings left at the scene, Isaacson said.
Chambers, arrested at his house about 1½ hours after the shooting, “chuckled” in the back seat of a patrol car and “responded in kind,” Isaacson said, when detectives aggressively questioned him, frequently changing his story.
She noted that six hours after the shooting, Chambers’ blood alcohol was measured at 0.20 percent, over twice the legal limit.
Though some may have considered Hood and Vause rednecks, good old Southern boys or even “white trash,” Isaacson said there was no interaction between the men and Chambers inside the bar.
Chambers “created the situation,” Isaacson said. “This was not self-defense.”
Defense attorney Lauren McLane, however, told jurors that it was Vause and Hood who followed Chambers after leaving the Feedback Lounge, hurling “vile racial epithets at him” and trying to break into Chambers’ car. Unable to start his vehicle, Chambers grabbed a gun from under the seat, exited the car and shot Hood to protect himself from being assaulted with the shovel, McLane said.
She told jurors that Chambers suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from spending time during his youth and young adulthood in detention and prison in racially charged atmospheres, including his involvement in a race riot at California’s San Quentin prison in 1967. Those experiences shaped his view of police as violent and indifferent, she said.
Because of his PTSD, Chambers doesn’t remember anything between the time he grabbed his gun and his arrest at his house, located about 1½ miles from the bar he frequented, McLane said.
She called Vause a bigot and a liar and said Chambers “knew if he didn’t stop Michael Hood, if he didn’t protect himself, he was going to die on that sidewalk.”
Witness testimony in the case will begin Thursday.
Sara Jean Green: 206-515-5654 or firstname.lastname@example.org