0

Witness: 'He hit her hard'

A Forest Park woman who screamed for someone to stop a south Georgia man from beating a U.S. Army reservist, at a Morrow Cracker Barrel, testified Thursday that she was frightened of him, during, and immediately after the attack.

Prosecution witnesses continued to give testimony, on Thursday, in the trial of Troy Dale West, Jr., of Poulan, Ga., who is facing charges of aggravated assault, battery, disorderly conduct, false imprisonment, and cruelty to children, for the Sept. 9, 2009 attack on Army reservist, Tashawnea Hill. West allegedly beat Hill, and yelled slurs at her, in front of her then-7-year old daughter, in the foyer of the restaurant.

Forest Park resident Ginger Ellis testified, before a half-full courtroom, that she was sitting in a rocking chair, on the restaurant's porch, when she heard Hill, arguing with West, just before he attacked her. The case has garnered national attention because West is a Caucasian, and Hill is an African-American.

Ellis, who witnessed the attack, said she got up from the rocking chair, and opened the door to the restaurant, when she heard sounds of "some banging, and some thumping" coming from the foyer. She said she opened the door and saw West "pounding on" Hill. Ellis said the attack "seemed like it went on forever," and she screamed at him to stop. She also said she screamed for other customers to help Hill.

"I was scared of him," Ellis said. "I'm scared of violence ... He hit that woman, and he hit her hard. You could hear it. You could hear him hitting her. It just sounded like thumping. You could hear the thumping because it's just a little vestibule."

West's attorney, Tony Axam, said he expects to begin putting the defense witnesses on the stand this afternoon. He said West will not testify in the trial, even though the attorney said, during opening arguments, that his client would be testifying.

"I've proven my case, so he won't need to testify," Axam said.

On Thursday morning, witnesses to the incident, and a Cracker Barrel loss prevention official, testified before the trial's jury, which consists of nine whites, three African-Americans, one Asian, and one Hispanic. Two of the nine white jurors are alternates.

A point of contention in the trial is whether Hill provoked West into attacking her, spitting on him. Axam asserts that Hill spit on West, and West's wife. On Wednesday, however, Hill testified that she did not spit on her attacker.

Witnesses who testified Thursday morning said they did not see Hill spit on West.

Later, while on the stand, Jim Bishop, a loss prevention manager for Cracker Barrel, went through the security video, which showed West allegedly attacking Hill, frame-by-frame. Bishop, who had reviewed the video for the restaurant chain, during its own investigation, testified that Hill could not be seen spitting on West in the video. He also said the defendant could be seen touching Hill before the attack.

"He is touching, or holding her arm," Bishop said.

Although the video was shot through a pair of closed doors, West could be seen, through the windows in the doors, repeatedly lunging towards Hill.