Admitted drug dealer Tyrone Smith was angry when he left John G. Zimmerman's Leesburg apartment one night in March 2003, Loudoun County prosecutors said. Zimmerman, who thought Smith sold him low-quality cocaine, had just pulled a knife on Smith and cut his face.
So Smith went to the parking lot, pulled out his gun from underneath his car seat, rolled down the window and fired into Zimmerman's second-floor apartment, Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Jennifer Wexton told a jury Tuesday during her opening statement in Smith's trial on a murder charge.
"He took aim and fired four shots into the window," Wexton said. She said Smith then turned to his girlfriend, who was driving, and said, "I hope I hit him."
Smith, 20, of Manassas, is also charged with firing a gun into an occupied dwelling, possession of a firearm while in possession of illegal drugs and other offenses in connection with Zimmerman's slaying March 27, 2003. As his trial opened Tuesday in Loudoun County Circuit Court, Smith pleaded guilty to distribution of cocaine.
Public Defender Lorie O'Donnell said Smith admitted that he fired into Zimmerman's apartment. But she said that Smith, angry and shocked that he had been cut, "was just trying to scare" Zimmerman and never intended to injure or kill anyone.
O'Donnell said Smith broke into tears when he learned that Zimmerman had died. She said he fired into a dark bedroom, where the blinds were down and the curtains drawn, only moments after he had seen Zimmerman in the apartment's living room.
Zimmerman's slaying was the only homicide in Leesburg in 2003. Smith's girlfriend, Joanna Howland, 30, of Manassas, was also charged with murder and is awaiting trial.
The first encounter between Smith and Zimmerman came earlier that day, when Zimmerman and two of his friends were trying to buy crack cocaine and paged Smith, Wexton said. Smith didn't have the drugs, Wexton said, but his cousin did, and he set up the deal.
Wexton said Smith, his cousin and Howland sold crack cocaine to Zimmerman and his friends. Later that day, Wexton said, Zimmerman and his friends paged Smith a second time and said they wanted to buy more drugs.
Wexton said Smith returned to the apartment and made a second sale. Smith left the apartment and had just stopped at a nearby gas station when he got a third page and was asked to return to the apartment, Wexton said.
Wexton told the jury that Zimmerman accused Smith of "switching up," or selling low-quality drugs, and demanded that he get his money back. She said Zimmerman pulled a knife out of his pocket and cut Smith's face and one of his hands as they scuffled.
Although Wexton described Smith's injury as a "small cut," O'Donnell said Smith left with blood on his face, hands and shirt.
O'Donnell said Zimmerman, who had been doing drugs and drinking, was "paranoid" and "out of control" because he thought he had been cheated. "Mr. Zimmerman lunged at him, attacked him," O'Donnell said, adding that Zimmerman's wife jumped on his back to break up the fight.
Smith returned to Howland's SUV, Wexton said, and fired into Zimmerman's apartment. Authorities said Zimmerman was shot twice and died the next day at Inova Fairfax Hospital. His wife was not injured.