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  • Cassaday

Thursday, April 20, 2017 1:00 am

Shooter says he wasn't looking for gunfight

FRANK GRAY | The Journal Gazette

The man charged with murder in a fatal shooting at Texas Roadhouse in August told a jury Wednesday that he shot the victim after he realized the victim had shot an unarmed man during a parking lot confrontation.

Andrew Cassaday testified he fired on Jeffrey Lute after watching Lute come around the corner of the restaurant holding his gun.

Cassaday, 29, is charged with murder, carrying a handgun without a license and use of a handgun in a crime. He shot and killed Lute, 28, after he and several other members of a motorcycle club confronted Lute when he emerged from the restaurant.

Cassaday said that when the group confronted Lute, Lute held up a cellphone to record the confrontation. Cassaday said things began to get out of hand, and then he saw that Lute had drawn his gun, which he was licensed to carry. Lute then shot Phil Elkins, who had followed Lute through the parking lot and halfway down the side of the building.

Cassaday said he then turned and went to his car, got his gun and walked toward the front door of the restaurant. He said he wasn't looking for a gunfight but could hear sirens and was waiting for police to arrive.

He said he then saw Lute come around the building with a gun in his hand and said Lute was raising his hand, so he fired.

Cassaday testified he saw Lute fall, but thought that he might have been “playing possum.” He then got into his car, picked up Elkins and left. He also said he gave the gun to his girlfriend, who put it in the glove box. He acknowledged that he told her, “Remember, it's your gun now.”

The girlfriend initially told police it was her gun but later said it wasn't hers. Cassaday said he had bought the gun but it was for her to carry because she had a permit.

Elkins and other members of the motorcycle club also testified.

Elkins acknowledged that the sole reason he went to the restaurant was because he knew Lute was there and he wanted to confront him and “chew his ass.” He said he didn't expect a fight. He said he knew Lute always carried a gun but didn't think he would shoot him.

Dominic Gawreluk, who had gone to the restaurant to pick up his girlfriend, witnessed the confrontation. He said two men had emerged from the restaurant when a bunch of men confronted them. One came running up and grabbed Lute's throat and threw him to the ground, he said.

Gawreluk said he then heard a shot, heard Cassaday say he was going to get his gun and saw him walk to his car. He said Cassaday was standing directly in front of his car when he aimed at the corner of the building for about three seconds and fired. He then got in his car and left.

The jury also heard a recording of Gawreluk's call to 911 to report the shooting and report that a man was down and not moving.

Closing arguments are expected to take place today.

fgray@jg.net