It should have been a simple task: separating the caterer’s chairs from those provided by Fairfax County parks for a wedding in Chantilly last August.
But those attending the wedding were fed up with the attitude of Fairfax County Park Authority employee Kempton A. Bonds throughout the night, wedding guest Laverne Smith testified. So when Bonds piped up to say that the park had provided 80 chairs, the caterer, who was a friend of the bride and groom’s, yelled at him to leave the group alone, Smith said.
The caterer, Tyonne Johns, 35, then approached Bonds, Smith said. The witness tearfully recounted what happened next.
“As she walked toward him, he got up off the railing, turned to face her and the next thing I know, I saw him pull a knife out of his pocket,” said Smith, whose daughter is the groom’s sister. Smith said she saw Bonds twice stab Johns in the chest before she pushed away and began to fall.
“I literally saw her gasping for air, and then she passed out,” Smith said.
Smith testified during the second day of the Fairfax County Circuit Court trial for Bonds, who is charged with second-degree murder in the August 2016 killing. The trial is expected to take four or five days.
In his opening statement Monday, Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Brandon Shapiro said Bonds, now 20, had been paranoid and curt throughout the evening and lashed out violently during the tense encounter with others at the wedding.
Defense attorney Peter Greenspun told jurors that Johns was the aggressor and grabbed Bonds’s neck. Greenspun said his client, who was near a railing that separated the guests from a steep drop, used deadly force only “to save himself.”
The incident unfolded in August 2016 at Ellanor C. Lawrence Park.
Shapiro described Bonds as someone who was a “stickler” to maintain the venue’s rules and was “cold” toward wedding guests throughout the night. Bonds picked rose petals up off the floor and turned off the circuit breaker to the music minutes after the 9 p.m. deadline, upsetting wedding guests, the prosecutor said.
Although the venue did not allow for those decorations and the contract included a 9 p.m. deadline for music, Bonds’s approach seemed insensitive to the guests, Shapiro said, considering it was a wedding reception. He asked the jury to pay attention to “the little things” throughout that night.
“Mr. Bonds had a completely paranoid, distorted thought that whole night that everybody was assaulting him,” Shapiro said.
But Greenspun said Bonds was just doing his job.
At the time, he was a 19-year-old employee on his last day of work and had plans to head to Virginia Commonwealth University a few weeks later.
The knife Bonds used was a “keepsake,” something he carried because his father, who died two years before the incident, made the knife, Greenspun said. He said it was engraved with the family’s last name.
Bonds’s boss with the park authority, Zane Stivers, testified Tuesday that Bonds had been one of the park’s best hires and said the two had discussed him returning the following summer. Bonds had been working there since July 2015, Greenspun said.
Stivers said Bonds did not have a history of being rude to park patrons.
Greenspun played the jury a video Bonds had recorded, showing tensions rising as the wedding party and other guests prepared to leave, and then the confrontation.
It’s difficult to see the scene clearly in the dark video, but the audio captures wedding guests hurling insults and curses at Bonds before, Greenspun said, Bonds stabbed Johns in self-defense when cornered at the end of a railing outside the venue. If he had fallen, Greenspun said, it would have been a 9½ foot drop to the air conditioning units below.
Shapiro said the video shows emotional attendees rightfully upset toward the employee they believe ruined the event.
“You’re not going to hear an intimidated kid. You’re going to hear somebody talking like an adult and not caring,” Shapiro said.
Shortly before the stabbing, multiple people can be heard on the video yelling, before one woman says “I’m gonna knock you out” and another person screams, “Don’t touch her!”
“Oh, you stabbed me,” a woman says.
Bonds starts screaming “get away from me” and then yells for the police multiple times.
“You’re going to jail,” many people can be heard telling him.
Bonds’s yells for the police after the stabbing show he acted in self-defense and expected officers to help him, Greenspun told jurors.
He said Bonds had called the police and Stivers earlier in the night to relay concerns about the wedding guests not following the venue’s rules and to explain that he felt “threatened” by attendees but that the police “abandoned him.”
“They left this kid, 19 years old. He’d been called a racist, he’d been called a weirdo,” Greenspun said.
Stivers testified that an officer who responded to Bonds’s call earlier that evening said there was not much police could do because he had not been injured.
Shapiro acknowledged that Bonds had been insulted but said those heated words were not a reason to stab Johns.
“This defendant’s mind that night was so distorted that he wasn’t reasonable,” Shapiro said. “This little incident turned deadly because this defendant used deadly force in a situation he should not have.”