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  • Cassaday

Tuesday, April 18, 2017 1:00 am

Defense: Slaying was self-defense

Trial starts in killing at steakhouse

FRANK GRAY | The Journal Gazette

No one is denying that Andrew Cassaday shot and killed Jeffrey Lute in the parking lot of the Texas Roadhouse on Aug. 14, 2016.

What the jury will have to decide in Cassaday's murder trial, which started Monday in Allen Superior Court, is whether the killing amounted to an ambush or self-defense.

Cassaday is charged with murder, carrying a handgun without a license and using a firearm in a crime.

The prosecution said Lute was part of a group of men who liked to ride sports motorcycles around town. Eventually the group formed a club with bylaws and officers, but tensions arose, Lute left the group, and tensions continued.

Then, on a Sunday night, Lute and four other people, three of them women, met at the restaurant for a meal, Deputy Prosecutor Tom Chaille said. One of the women in the group took a short Snapchat video and sent it to people she knew. One was a member of the motorcycle club, he said.

Several of the club's members then went to the restaurant to confront Lute, Chaille said. When Lute emerged from the restaurant the group converged on him. Lute told them to back off, but when they didn't, Lute shot the most aggressive member of the group in the leg. That man started yelling, “Shoot him,” Chaille said.

Cassaday then went to his car and told his girlfriend, “Give me my gun.” As Lute came around the corner, Cassaday fired, hitting him once in the neck, severing his spinal cord and killing him instantly, Chaille said.

Cassaday's act wasn't self-defense, Chaille said. “You can't ambush someone and say I was defending myself.”

Cassaday's defense attorney, Jon Tipton, acknowledged that some club members went to the restaurant to have what he called words with Lute and that Lute and one man were arguing and having what he called a shoving match. Much of what happened was recorded on Lute's cellphone.

Tipton said that after the shooting, Lute ran around the back of the building where it was dark and Cassaday didn't know where he had gone.

Cassaday went to his car and got his gun and waited to hear another shot, Tipton said. Then Lute, who had shot an unarmed man moments earlier, emerged from around the building, holding his phone in one hand and his gun in the other. When Cassaday saw him, he fired one shot from 60 feet away and hit Lute.

“It was the luckiest unlucky shot,” Tipton said. 

When the trial resumes today, there will be numerous witnesses, security video and video from Lute's phone.