September 8, 2013 12:27:37 AM
Sarah Fowler - [email protected]
A Columbus man was sentenced to life in prison after a jury found him guilty of murder Friday morning.
Ranzino Ahmad Harris, 25, was convicted in the 2010 shooting death of Justin Murray on Schoolhouse Avenue. Harris was also charged with aggravated assault after Michael Brewer sustained a gunshot wound to the middle finger during the incident. Harris was found not guilty of that charge.
During the trial, Harris admitted to shooting Murray but claimed self-defense. Harris, Murray and Brewer had been in an altercation minutes before the shooting took place. According to court testimony, Murray and Brewer spent the night with sisters Terecia Lee and Ashley Hill. Hill and Harris had been engaged in an "on-again, off-again" romantic relationship for several years but had broken up weeks before the shooting. When Hill did not answer Harris' phone calls that morning, Harris drove to the Schoolhouse Avenue residence and confronted her. Harris admitted to putting his hands around Hill's neck.
Murray entered the bathroom and pulled Harris off of Hill and the two men began scuffling in a nearby bedroom. Brewer defended Murray and hit Harris. Both Brewer and Harris testified the fight last approximately one minute.
Harris then left the home but testified he immediately realized that he lost his cell phone during the struggle. Harris said he walked back onto the home's front porch and attempted to enter to retrieve his phone. He claimed he saw Murray and Brewer in the living room and thought they were "coming at me." Harris fired two shots into the home, striking Murray once in the chest and once in the back of the head as he turned to run away. Brewer was also shot during the incident. Harris then entered the home, walked to the bedroom, retrieved his cell phone and left. He did not call 911.
Brewer attempted to resuscitate Murray by giving him CPR, but Murray died at the scene.
Murray's sister, Shemekia Harris, no relation to Ranzino Ahmad Harris, said Friday's verdict is "justice for Justin."
"I have all kind of mixed emotions," she said. "I'm just happy that my brother got justice after three years. (Harris) has been walking around freely, doing what he wants to do, being with his family during holidays and Christmas. And we have to visit my brother at a graveyard."
"I'm just glad that it's over with," she added. "We finally got some peace and know the whole truth about what happened to Justin. Like we always say, justice for Justin."
Shemekia Harris learned of her brother's death when Lee called her moments after the shooting. She said that phone call is a moment she will never forget.
"That was an unexplainable feeling. I would never wish anyone to have to go through that," she said. "That's a feeling that, it just takes something out of you, a whole lot. It hurts. It's beyond hurt."
Shemekia described brother as "friendly, smart, outgoing and would help anyone."
Murray was home visiting Columbus from the University of Southern Mississippi where he was a junior studying criminal justice when he was shot and killed. In addition to his studies, Murray also volunteered at the Boys and Girls Club and with Columbus-Lowndes Parks and Recreation, Shemekia Harris said.
"Justin was just a person that had a good heart," she said. "He would do anything for anybody."
Sarah Fowler covered crime, education and community related events for The Dispatch.