The Journal Gazette
Tuesday, May 25, 2021 1:00 am

Police: Woman died fleeing gunfire

Stray bullet to head fatal; suspect, 20, claims self-defense

DEVAN FILCHAK | The Journal Gazette

A woman who tried to run for cover in her home during a shootout at the Villages of Hanna died after being shot in the head by a stray bullet, according to court documents.

The woman was identified Monday by the Allen County coroner's office as Candiace Marie Lay, 29, of Fort Wayne. She was identified as Candiace Lobbley in a probable cause affidavit filed with the court.

Lay was home with her boyfriend when they heard gunfire early Saturday and retreated to the back of the apartment, according to court documents. Her boyfriend told law enforcement officials that he made it to the end of the hallway when he turned to see Lay collapse after being shot in the head. She was taken to a hospital and later died due to her injuries.

The shooting started about 12:45 a.m. Saturday after a brief argument in the parking lot, police said. Jamarion Thomas, 20, was charged with aggravated battery causing death, a felony.

Thomas told police he was acting in self-defense after he and his mother, Tilonda Thomas, were shot, court documents said. They had arrived at the apartments, along with the woman Jamarion Thomas lives with, when Thomas grabbed his rifle out of the vehicle to take into his apartment, he told police.

A group of men was hanging out in the parking lot and drinking when they started yelling at Thomas, asking why he needed to have his AR-15-style rifle out in front of children, he told police. One man in the group then yelled that they had seven guns on them, according to court documents.

Thomas had reached the apartment building but came back outside to yell at the men, asking whom they were going to shoot, he told police.

The men then began shooting, and Thomas grabbed his rifle to shoot back, court documents said.

The woman who shares an apartment with Thomas saw that Tilonda Thomas was injured and moved her into the apartment, according to court documents. Jamarion Thomas went back to the apartment when he ran out of ammunition and saw his mother had been shot. He then grabbed his rifle and ammunition to go back outside and return fire, the documents said.

Investigators found the rifle, unspent ammunition and blood inside Thomas' apartment, according to court documents. More than 30 bullet shells for the rifle and about 15 shells for a handgun were found in the parking lot.

In addition to Lay and Tilonda Thomas, three people were shot in the crossfire, police said. Lay's death marks the 17th homicide in Allen County this year.

An initial hearing was held Monday for Thomas, and his bond was set at $50,000. His next hearing will be after a 72-hour hold ends.

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