Judge denies motion to suppress alleged murder weapon in pregnant Athens woman's shooting death

Updated: Nov 16



Murder defendant Kiresa Shanice Cooper

By Joe Johnson

A judge recently denied a motion to suppress as evidence the gun that allegedly was used to kill a pregnant woman last year at the Clarke Gardens apartment complex.

The victim, 24-year-old Auriel Briana “Thumpa” Callaway was with her 3-year-old son outside their home at the eastside Athens apartment complex the night of July 22 when, Athens-Clarke County police said, gunshots rang out from a fight nearby in the complex and Callaway was killed by a bullet as she tried to rush her son to safety.

Callaway was four months pregnant with a child who also died, police said.

Charged with murder for Callaway’s death is 28-year-old Kiresa Shanice Cooper, who also resided at Clarke Gardens.  Cooper also indicted for feticide for the death of Callaway’s unborn child. Two aggravated assault charges are from Cooper allegedly firing her gun in the direction of two other females, according to the indictment.

Cooper’s sister, Kadrica Yearby told Classic City News that in conversations at the jail, Cooper admitted to firing a gun in the air in an attempt to break up fighting. She said she could not understand how the bullet that killed Callaway could be linked to her sister’s gun when there were dozens of spent bullet casings at the scene.

Auriel Briana “Thumpa” Callaway with her son, Mason

In the motion to suppress the alleged murder weapon as evidence, Cooper’s attorney argued that police lacked probable cause when asking a Magistrate Court judge for a warrant to search Cooper’s home, according to the motion that was filed Feb. 5 in Clarke County Superior Court.

The motion also contended that after it was issued, the search warrant was improperly executed by police.

In his Nov. 5 ruling, Western Judicial Circuit Judge H. Patrick Haggard said the police had probable cause to search Callaway’s home based on statements by witnesses and a confidential informant that they saw Cooper shoot her gun in Callaway’s direction.

“...under the totality of the circumstances, the two eyewitnesses and the informant provide the requisite probable cause” for issuance of the search warrant, Haggard wrote in his ruling.

The judge said that the defense attorney contended in the motion to suppress that police did not lawfully execute the search warrant, but that the attorney “did not develop this argument at either the hearing or (in the) supplemental brief.”

Haggard said in his ruling that when Lt. David Norris searched Cooper’s home he located a carrying  case for a Kel-Tec handgun, three 9mm bullets, and a receipt that Cooper had purchased a Kel-Tec P-11 9mm handgun eight months prior to the alleged murder.

Cooper’s father gave police consent to search his car, which he allowed his daughter to use, and Haggard noted that officers recovered a Kel-Tec P-11 handgun from the car.

The judge wrote in his ruling that Norris gave to Cooper’s mother “an accurate” inventory of what was seized, but because the search of the car that found the gun was based on the consent of Cooper’s father and not the warrant, Norris “prepared a second inventory with the intention of leaving out the gun that was recovered from the vehicle.”

However, the judge wrote, “Officer Norris inadvertently failed to list the Kel-Tec handgun box in the rewritten inventory in the return.

The omission did not make the search warrant invalid, as the defense attorney claimed, according to Haggard.

 “Officer Norris’ scrivener's error does not render the (warrant’s) execution invalid," the judge wrote in his order.

Cooper has been jailed without bond since her arrest, and a motion to set bond has been pending since it was filed in court on Oct. 20. A hearing on the motion has not been scheduled.

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