Mall riot suspect’s case sent to grand jury
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (WDEF) — After hearing from two witnesses, a judge found enough probable cause and sent the case of the Hamilton Place mall riot suspect to the grand jury.
David Ballard looked on as security video from Hamilton Place mall was played during his preliminary hearing on Thursday.
Ballard faces an aggravated riot charge after police say he got in a fight with rival gang members, brandished a gun, and caused panic at the mall. A store manager and a pregnant woman were hurt in the riot.
“A couple people trampled over her as they were exiting the mall. She got up. Due to the fact that she was 26 weeks pregnant, she said my stomach was hurting,” said Jared Hamilton, an investigator with the Chattanooga Police Department.
Hamilton said video shows Ballard, who is in a hoodie, displaying his gun. Ballard later takes off his hoodie. He is then shown involved in a fight. At the top of an escalator, a concerned citizen was shown taking out his gun after seeing Ballard.
“Any riot or disturbance was this other gentleman who was playing vigilante and pulling out his gun and running around with a gun. That is what causes the people to start running and panicking,” said Lloyd Levitt, Ballard’s lawyer.
“It is not the concerned citizen. It is the defendant, who engaged in violent behavior by engaging in a brawl at the bottom of the escalator, that displayed a weapon multiple times. This is tumultuous and violent conduct,” said Cameron Williams, a prosecutor.
Judge Gary Starnes found probable cause to bound the case over to the grand jury.
“I do think he is a danger to the public. I think he is after running through the mall, first of all flashing a weapon where everybody could see it at a rival gang. I don’t know if they are gang members or not, that was the testimony. If you flash a weapon at another set of individuals you are asking for trouble and he did that in an open, public place,” Judge Starnes said.
Judge Starnes increased Ballard’s bond to $100,000 each for his aggravated riot and reckless endangerment charges.