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Probable cause statement describes killings at bar

by Joe Gamm | December 1, 2022 at 4:04 a.m.
Julie Smith/News Tribune photo: Tributes to Skylar Smock poured in following his death, as the makeshift memorial to him grew in the south entryway to J.Pfenny's Grill and Pub, where Smock was an employee. He was shot and killed early Saturday morning, Nov. 26, 2022, while trying to break up an altercation between two patrons.

Two families are grieving the losses of loved ones following Saturday's double-homicide in downtown Jefferson City.

The Jefferson City Police Department's probable cause statement clears up some of the questions they may have had concerning the shooting, but others -- such as whose weapon was used in the deaths -- remain.

Readers may find some of the details disturbing.

The probable cause statement reports numerous officers responded at 12:57 a.m. Saturday to reports of a shooting inside JPfenny's, 217 E. High St.

The bar contained several dozen patrons who remained in the bar when the incident happened, according to the statement. Witnesses told dispatchers the shooter left through the business' rear door. Officers arriving on the scene confronted and arrested Damien L. Davis, the 35-year-old suspect who was leaving the back of the building.

Davis was in possession of a Smith and Wesson 9mm handgun.

As officers took him into custody, Davis said, "I did the shooting," according to the statement.

Inside the business, officers identified Skylar Smock and Corey Thames on the floor, near its entrance. Each had suffered fatal gunshot wounds. Investigators found several 9mm shell casings around the victims -- matching the brand of ammunition found in the weapon recovered from Davis, according to the statement.

Witnesses told investigators Davis and Thames were involved in a fight inside the bar. As they scuffled, they began to wrestle with each other on the floor over a firearm, according to the statement.

Smock, a bar employee, intervened in the fight and separated the men. Smock began to escort Thames out of the bar, when Davis walked up behind the men. When he was only a few feet away, he fired a single shot into the back of Smock's head, according to the statement. As Smock collapsed to the floor, Davis began firing at Thames, who also collapsed.

Witnesses told investigators Thames's legs were still moving. Davis walked over to Thames and stood over him. He then crouched down and placed the handgun against Thames's chest and fired several rounds, the statement said.

"After shooting Victim #1 (Smock) and Victim #2 (Thames), Davis walked passed (sic) them both victims on the floor, motionless and bleeding, and was described by more than one witness as having a 'smirk' on his face," the statement said. "Davis then exited the rear of the business, where he encountered arriving officers."

The entire incident was also recorded on surveillance equipment.

While testifying -- after having learned of his Miranda rights -- Davis admitted being involved in the fight with Thames. He told police Thames had produced the handgun, according to the probable cause statement.

Davis said he "got up shooting," but his description of the incident didn't match that of physical evidence on the scene. Nor did it match surveillance footage, according to the statement.

"I inquired with Davis if he had shot anyone else besides Victim #2, and he stated he wasn't for sure because there was a lot of people in the bar," an investigator wrote in the statement. "When confronted with video evidence, Davis did not recall the incident occurring as I had described to him. He added that he was sorry for Victim #1's family, but not sorry for Victim #2's family because he had a gun pulled on him."

On Saturday, authorities charged Davis with two counts each of first-degree murder, unlawful use of a weapon and armed criminal action, and with unlawful possession of a firearm.

Because Davis had at least two previous felony convictions, he is considered a prior and persistent offender, and subject to enhanced sentencing -- meaning punishments may be higher than otherwise.

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