A surveillance camera inside an unlicensed marijuana shop in east Colorado Springs captured the moment that an intruder opened fire on a man who worked inside, killing him with seven shots from an assault-style rifle.

Conte Smith-El, 24, cried out for help after the Oct. 30 shooting and tried to crawl to an exit before he collapsed on his stomach and stopped moving, footage showed Friday at a key hearing for his accused killer, Deddrick "Houston" Hill of Colorado Springs.

From a front row in the gallery, Smith-El's mother, Barbara Jones, moaned in her seat as the video played and shouted "Why!" before she stood and ran out of court.

The dramatic scene capped a half-day hearing at which 4th Judicial District Judge G. David Miller ruled that evidence was sufficient to order Hill to trial on charges of first-degree murder and attempted aggravated robbery, among others.

A second male tied to the shooting, 16-year-old Joshua Daugherty, was charged as an adult with first-degree murder and is due for a court hearing Monday. Both defendants are being held without bond.

Disclosures in court provided new insight into a killing inside a storefront in the 2200 block of East Platte Avenue that posed as a consignment store but actually served as "an underground marijuana shop," according to prosecutor Kelson Castain.

According to police, Smith-El lived in the basement and manned the counter - buzzing select customers into a back room. A series of cameras watched most parts of the business, some transmitting footage in real time to the man identified by police as the owner, who police say was able to monitor the goings-on at the store via an internet application.

Prosecutors say the footage showed that Daugherty served as an inside man, going in first as a customer and purchasing a tobacco product from Smith-El. While the two attended to their transaction, Hill, wearing a sweatshirt with the hood drawn tight over his face, burst through a door behind the counter toting a .22-caliber semi-automatic rifle styled after an AR-15.

Hill ordered Smith-El and Daugherty to the floor at gunpoint, but Daugherty eventually stood up and ran into the back room. Though the video appeared to show Daugherty escaping, police investigators testified they believed he was searching another part of the room where marijuana was stored.

Smith-El was held at gunpoint for several minutes as the intruder attempted to restrain him, first with his own belt and later with an extension cord he found nearby. Castain said he eventually fought back, prompting the gunman to shoot.

Hill and Daugherty ran out of the business at the same time, separated by a few feet, prosecutors alleged.

Neither appeared to actually take anything from the business, authorities said.

Police testified that they solved the case with the public's help after releasing a surveillance image of the accomplice.

A Mitchell High School student contacted police to say she was "99.9 percent" sure the photo depicted Daugherty, a sophomore at the school.

Daugherty's mother also recognized her son from the footage and identified the gunman as a man she knew by the street name "Houston" and his first name, Deddrick.

Responding to information they gathered from her, police arrested Hill on Nov. 7 at an apartment complex on East Hills Boulevard in Knob Hill, not far from the unlicensed shop. A search of his Buick sedan led to an AR-15-style rifle police say was used in the killing. Police say they also found Hill's DNA on the rifle and on a tactical flashlight that the intruder is seen brandishing in surveillance footage.

Miller ruled that evidence against Hill was strong enough to create the presumption he will be convicted at trial, a finding that means he will not be eligible for bond.


I cover legal affairs for The Gazette, with an emphasis on the criminal courts. Tips to lance.benzel@gazette.com

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