Judge puts grieving father on notice as testimony continues in El Mula mass shooting trial

Detectives testify during trial of man prosecutors say was ‘eyes of the operation’ resulting in 3 dead, 20 injured

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – Testimony continued on Friday during the trial of a 24-year-old man who is accused of acting as a lookout during the 2021 Memorial Day weekend shooting at El Mula Banquet Hall in Miami-Dade.

A group of shooters fired for about 10 seconds, at about 12:30 a.m., on May 30, 2021, in a strip mall at 7630 NW 186 St. The barrage of bullets hit 23 victims killing Shaniqua Peterson, Desmond Owens, and Clayton Dillard III and injuring 20 others.

Davonte Barnes — who is not accused of shooting at the victims — is the only suspect facing charges in the case. Circuit Judge Marisa Tinkler Mendez, who is presiding over the case, said Dillard’s father, Clayton Dillard II, had been accused of misconduct in the courthouse.

“You apparently, allegedly made some gesture to Mr. Barnes ... In two days, I have gotten three reports of some conflict,” Tinkler Mendez said.

Clayton Dillard II was in the courtroom on Friday during the trial of a suspect in the shooting who killed his son. (Copyright 2023 by WPLG Local10.com - All rights reserved.)

Attorney Robert Barrar, who was defending Barnes, asked Tinkler Mendez to keep the grieving father, who denied the accusations, out of the courtroom during the trial.

“I am not throwing you out of the courtroom,” Tinkler Mendez told Dillard II, adding that she was going to be holding a contempt hearing.

Prosecutors said there were three vehicles involved in the crime and called Melissa Alcalde, who works at the Enterprise Rent-A-Car at the Miami International Airport, to testify about the 2020 Cadillac XT5. She said the person who rented it originally wanted a pickup truck but settled for the sports utility vehicle.

A group of detectives from the Miami-Dade Police Department testified on Friday during the trial of a suspect accused of acting as a lookout before a shooting that killed three and injured 20 in 2021 outside of El Mula Banquet Hall in Miami-Dade. (Copyright 2023 by WPLG Local10.com - All rights reserved.)

The prosecution also called a group of Miami-Dade detectives to testify about their work gathering evidence in the case. Detective Steve Sklavounos testified about photographs of the victims’ injuries at Jackson Memorial Hospital’s Ryder Trauma Center and Aventura Hospital.

“That is some brain matter underneath the bandage,” Slavounos said about one of the images.

Detectives Victor Montalvo and his colleague Detective Bianca Gonzalez said they collected videos from digital recorders at nearby businesses. Detective Javier Giovane, a member of the cyber crimes unit, said he collected surveillance video from the Cordoba Courts, at 13875 NW 22 Ave., in Opa-locka.

Davonte Barnes was in the courtroom on Friday during the second day of his trial Miami-Dade County. (Copyright 2023 by WPLG Local10.com - All rights reserved.)

During her opening statement on Thursday, Assistant State Attorney Kioceaia Stenson described Barnes as “the eyes of the operation” and said he arrived early to “scope out the scene,” check if the target, a local rapper, was there, and report back to the gunmen.

“They had a target, they had a plan, and they executed it,” Stenson said.

During his opening statement, Barrar asked the jury to remember that in the U.S. “we don’t take away people’s freedom because of who they may hang out with.”

“The evidence will show that in this case, the evidence has been compromised,” Barrar said.

Barnes was arrested on Sept. 23, 2021, and prosecutors charged him with three counts of first-degree murder and 20 counts of first-degree attempted murder, records show.

Testimony ended at about 5:10 p.m. Tinkler Mendez asked the jurors to return to the courtroom by 9:15 a.m., on Tuesday.

If convicted, Barnes faces the possibility of life in prison without parole. Tinkler Mendez announced a death penalty waiver before the trial started.

Watch the 12 p.m. report

Watch the 4:30 p.m. report

Watch the 5:30 p.m. report

Coverage of the trial

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About the Authors:

Alex Finnie joined the Local 10 News team in May 2018. South Florida is home! She was raised in Miami and attended the Cushman School and New World School of the Arts for high school.

The Emmy Award-winning journalist joined the Local 10 News team in 2013. She wrote for the Miami Herald for more than 9 years and won a Green Eyeshade Award.