By Aria Jones
In a case involving missing Dallas police evidence, a Dallas County jury on Friday sentenced a man to 76 years in prison for a 2020 murder.
The sentence came just hours after the jury found 37 year-old Andrew Foreman guilty in the slaying of 38-year-old Shamont Small. The case is one of at least 16 homicides identified by The Dallas Morning News as having digital evidence that is missing or was deleted.
Police responded Oct. 9, 2020, to the 2400 block of Arbuckle Court in northwest Dallas and found Small lying in a grassy area along the road with multiple gunshot wounds. He was pronounced dead there.
Video of police interviews, along with 911 calls, show Foreman telling authorities he was carjacked the morning of the slaying, saying he did not know Small and denying involvement in his death. Other evidence showed the two men were together before the shooting.
Small’s relatives and loved ones had worried about a mistrial and other issues with the case because of missing evidence.
“It definitely did scare us,” his sister Ashley Small said.
Prosecutor Kristen Jackson told the jury Foreman was guilty and nothing in his story matched the evidence.
Defense attorney Kenneth Weatherspoon argued prosecutors failed to present enough evidence to prove their case.
On Friday morning, Weatherspoon called Detective Patty Belew to the stand and asked her about video evidence missing in the case.
She explained that body-camera footage from when Foreman spoke with an officer the day of the shooting was tagged with a different incident number than the homicide because authorities received two 911 calls: one from Foreman, who reported he was carjacked, and another from a witness who reported Small’s body.
Belew said when she put the incident number for the homicide in the department’s system, the footage did not show and she didn’t know there was another incident number that should’ve been attached to the murder case. Belew said she turned over evidence she had.
”I didn’t know that [the footage] existed,” Belew said. “I just thought that all of the body cam that was downloaded for this murder was accounted for.”
Dallas police confirmed Monday they had finished an audit of hundreds of pending homicide cases to see if evidence is missing or deleted, but the department would not immediately release its findings.
A top Dallas police official previously said some evidence was deleted because of human error, like detectives not saving evidence quickly enough in case files or improperly labeling videos.
Video footage reviewed
Surveillance footage from the shooting, which happened in the dark early-morning hours, showed a sedan stopping before its driver fired several shots.
The gunman could be seen pulling Small out of the car before driving off and returning to the body minutes later. The car broke down and the driver shot Small again before leaving, authorities said.
About half an hour later, a second vehicle arrived and pushed the sedan down the road before abandoning it. The sedan’s license plate led authorities to Foreman, whose cellphone records put him in the area of the shooting, police said.
A few hours after the shooting, Foreman called police and said he was carjacked, then heard gunshots after he ran. In interviews with police the day of the shooting and after his arrest months later, he denied involvement in Small’s death.
Other surveillance footage from before the shooting showed Small and Foreman together at a strip club where they hugged, and later left together in a black sedan.
Belew called their interactions at the club “close” and “intimate” — something uncommon for strangers — in her testimony.
Weatherspoon asked why investigators didn’t talk to club employees or identify other people seen in surveillance footage.
Loved ones grapple with killing
Small’s family and loved ones filled a section of the courtroom — they found the only action they could take was to be there for him each day of the trial, Lakesha Presswood, one of his sisters, testified.
“This has taken a lot out of us,” she said. “We lost a really important part of our life.”
She tearfully described Small, a married father of two, as a “very outgoing, friendly” artist who loved music.
”We miss his laughter. We miss his playful spirit. We miss his creativity, all of which you have stolen from us,” Ashley Small told Foreman in a victim impact statement.
When footage of the gunman shooting Small was played in the courtroom, Small’s father leapt from his seat, pointed at Foreman and shouted as he left the courtroom.
Cries and screams could be heard outside the courtroom after other relatives left with him. Those who remained inside reached for tissues as prosecutors resumed showing the footage.
Prosecutors said the only question remaining in the investigation was why Foreman shot Small.
Jackson, the prosecutor, said Small isn’t here today “because being friends with this man cost him his life,” referring to Foreman.
Weatherspoon — who told jurors during the trial’s sentencing phase Foreman was a productive citizen for most of his life before “something went terribly wrong” one night — said he plans to appeal.
Staff writer Kelli Smith contributed to this report.