A correction has been made to this article.
WINCHESTER — The family of fatal shooting victim Wayne Lamont Starks Jr., and the attorney for the man accused of accidentally shooting him, have expressed concerns about the case.
Starks, 25, was shot on July 7, 2020, in the basement of a home on Diamond Court. He was with Brandon Willis Kamga, who was visiting the home, and Kendall Mackenzie Smith, who lived there. Kamga, who denies wrongdoing, is accused of accidentally shooting Starks and has been charged with involuntary manslaughter and reckless handling of a firearm. On Tuesday in Frederick Circuit Court, a five-day jury trial was set for Kamga beginning April 4.
In documents made public in court Tuesday as part of the discovery process, Smith first told police Starks shot himself. He later said Kamga did it.
In a motion filed Monday, defense attorney Louis T. Campola questioned Smith’s credibility. In the motion, which Campola withdrew after prosecutors provided him with evidence he was seeking, he cited statements Smith made during a polygraph examination. Polygraphs are inadmissible in court due to unreliability, but investigators often use them to determine the honesty of suspects. The polygraph examiner deemed Smith credible.
During the examination, the 24-year-old Smith described himself as a “drug addict” with “impulse control problems.” He said he once pulled a gun on someone, has committed six armed robberies and “shot at houses and cars in the past.”
Starks’ father and sister said in an interview before Kamga’s hearing on Tuesday that they’re unsure if the shooting was accidental and don’t believe Kamga was responsible. Starks was a part-time electrician who had been working at Berryville Graphics at the time of his death. In the last weeks of his life, his family said he began carrying a pistol because he feared for his safety.
A week before his death, they said Starks told them he’d been shot at in Martinsburg, West Virginia, but he didn’t know by whom. They said he had been recruited to join the Crips gang but had second thoughts and was worried about retaliation if he backed out. Formed in 1969 in Los Angeles, the Crips have some 50,000 members nationwide, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
“He was afraid for his life, but he still wanted to play nice with these people because he was scared of them,” his sister Dazia Starks said. “I think my brother saw a lot of things and heard a lot of things that they didn’t trust him with. My brother thought he was being initiated into a gang. He thought they were his brothers and the cared about him at one point. But in the same notion, he was deathly afraid.”
Autopsy diagrams show the bullet from a 9 mm Walther PPS semi-automatic pistol entered Starks’ right wrist and then pierced the right side of his neck before it lodged in a door frame. Police said the angle in which the bullet entered Starks’ wrist shows it was impossible that he shot himself.
Kamga and Smith told police they were making rap music in the basement with Starks. Both said Smith was wearing headphones and Kamga was at a computer to the right of Smith. They said Starks was behind them when they heard a shot. They said they turned and found Starks on his back with blood gushing from his neck. They took Starks to Smith’s car to take him to the hospital. When police arrived, they said Kamga was applying direct pressure to Starks’ wound with a towel.
Police received a 911 call about the incident from Smith’s girlfriend. She was one of eight people in the home at the time of the shooting.
In an interview with police, the girlfriend said she was awoken by the shot. She said before police arrived, she heard Kamga repeatedly say “I’m so stupid” as he held the wounded Starks in the car. The Walther was purchased by Kamga, but Smith told police Kamga sold it to him that night.
Kamga, 23, of Leesburg, had recently met Starks through Smith. Kamga and Smith had been friends since playing youth basketball together.
Kamga was a high school basketball star in Reston who later was a starting guard in his senior year for Cal State Fullerton. He wasn’t drafted by the NBA, but he signed a contract with an NBA agent. He told police he was hoping to play professional basketball in France or Spain and was dropped off at Smith’s home on the night of the shooting by his trainer.
Police said they found drugs in the home and a .22-caliber pistol and bars of Xanax (an anti-depressant) in a bag in the backyard. They said Smith was found unloading the Walther on the basement steps when deputies arrived.
According to police, neither Smith nor Kagma tested positive for gunshot residue. Police said Smith was uncooperative on the night of the shooting. Campola noted Kamga agreed to the residue test, but police had to get a search warrant to test Smith.
In questioning Smith’s credibility, Campola cited police reports that said that Kamga was initially uncooperative with investigators and first said Starks shot himself. In the reports, investigators said Smith berated his girlfriend for calling 911, paced back and forth and randomly said, “They are going to try and place this on me!”
Smith also defended Kamga.
“He had nothing to do with it,” Smith said, according to police. “He ain’t talking. He’s about to go to the NBA.”
Nearly three hours into being interviewed at the home, police said Smith tried to jump out of a window, then ran out a door and struggled with deputies before being handcuffed. In an interview a day later at the Frederick County Public Safety Building, Smith’s demeanor and story changed.
Investigators said Smith asked them to stop recording the interview. They said a handheld recorder was turned off, but a room recorder was left on.
“Smith stated that Kamga had the gun earlier and was dancing around with it. He said he did not see Kamga pull the trigger, but it wasn’t him or Starks,” the police report said. “Smith believed that it was an accident and Kamga needs to own up to it.”
During the polygraph exam, Smith said Starks, who went by the nickname Lil Wayne, was his best friend and he never threatened to shoot him. He said he was “100% certain” the shooting was accidental.
Smith said said he would’ve fled if he’d shot Starks. He said he, Kamga and Starks had been drinking and smoking marijuana prior to the shooting and he thought the shot was an audio malfunction when he heard it through his headphones.
“I look back and Wayne hit. We was shocked. Then my girl screamed. I snapped back, jumped on him to put pressure on the wound and then we took him to the car,” Smith wrote. “That’s what I seen. I ain’t shoot the man.”