WASHINGTON - The funeral home owner accused of killing a pallbearer during a 10-year-old’s funeral service in Suitland, Maryland Tuesday was ordered held without bond by a Prince George’s County judge.
It was there that FOX 5 heard an attorney for the suspect argue for the first time on record, that it was 48-year-old Wilson Wesley Chavis who was under attack, felt as if he was threatened and acted in self-defense.
Assistant States Attorney William Porter called Chavis a violent individual who threatened to kill and legally has access to several firearms.
"The name of the funeral company that Mr. Chavis owns is Compassion and Serenity Funeral Home, neither of which he displayed on that day," said Prince George’s County States Attorney Aisha Braveboy after Friday’s Bond hearing.
Shots rang out at the grave site for 10-year-old Arianna Davis shortly before 1:15 p.m. Tuesday, June 6. Davis was an innocent bystander – shot and killed in May while asleep in a backseat as her family drove home from a Mother’s Day celebration in Northeast D.C.
The funeral service took place that morning at The Temple of Praise Church in Southeast D.C. The 10-year-old’s purple casket was then taken to Washington National Cemetery.
Police said the shooting stemmed from a long-standing business dispute between two funeral homes. The assistant state’s attorney confirmed in court today that the altercations Chavis got into before the shooting involved at least two people associated with Freeman’s Funeral Service. They were identified as a Freeman employee there for the funeral and the minister conducting the Tuesday funeral service.
The Assistant States Attorney William Porter, arguing the suspect be held, brought up the temporary peace order Glenda Freeman with Freeman Funeral Services sought against "Wes" Chavis in May.
According to the protective order application, she described Chaivs as threatening to kill her and her employees. FOX 5 is still waiting for a response from Freeman’s attorney.
Rebutting that information, Chavis’ attorney claimed there was an attempt going on to create a negative narrative around his client. Toward the end of the hearing, Chavis himself spoke through closed-circuit TV, even as the judge and his attorney advised him not to do so. He still argued: If that person had a stay away order, why were they at the funeral?
Court documents describe Chavis as getting into a confrontation with a Freeman employee, who, "realizing the circumstances were inappropriate to continue to argue with the Defendant," went back to his vehicle.
Court documents then claim Chavis, whose company was providing the funeral service, directed the pallbearers to bring the casket to the grave site.
Upon arrival, he allegedly told Pastor Joseph "Jody" Fletcher, "I’m here for all you (b-expletive a-expletive n-expletive)."
Court documents say Fletcher did not address Chavis and instead directed mourners to surround the casket. That’s when police say Chavis pushed the minister and allegedly said, "This ain’t your f-expletive funeral home."
Attendees, including the pallbearer killed, approached Chavis, upset he was disrespecting the family, according to police.
Court documents go on to say the 48-year-old backed up, tripped over the concrete vault lid on the ground next to the grave and fell. Investigators say as he fell, Chavis immediately pulled a pistol out and fired, allegedly hitting and killing 30-year-old Ronald Banks. A second round was said to be fired as he stood.
"I’m just baffled over the amount of guns that’s being used here in the city. I just don’t understand why everything has to resort to pulling out a gun," said Isaac Lambert, Ronald Banks’ father, "Ronald was very much joy in my life. I am totally going to miss him. I will forever have him in my heart. For I definitely love, love Ron. Thank you."
Lambert was emotional as he addressed the courtroom. He argued for Chavis to be held and told the judge his son worked at Washington Hospital Center, the very same hospital Banks was rushed to after the shooting, according to court documents.
The prosecutor also told the judge someone recently called into their office, claiming Chavis had also pulled a gun out on them and that the man did not realize who the alleged suspect was until he saw Chavis reported in the news.
In court, several people, including Chavis’ fiancé and adopted son, spoke on the funeral home owner’s behalf. Many called the shooting unfortunate but claimed it is not in his character to act like this unless he is acting in self-defense.
Asked about the self-defense argument, States Attorney Aisha Braveboy said something that is taken into account is who started the altercation.
"This 10-year-old girl was being buried, that day, everyone knew that. Yet it wasn’t important enough – yet that wasn’t, that wasn’t – that wasn’t sacred enough not to carry out unnecessary beef. And so that’s why we’re here, because people make bad choices. But we also have a choice our choice is to vigorously prosecute this case," said Braveboy.
Family members of Banks shared this GoFundMe link with FOX 5.