A Miller County jury found a Texarkana, Ark., man guilty of murder Wednesday afternoon in a fatal 2016 shooting at a local nightclub and sentenced him to life in prison.
LaJason Jaquize Coakley, 24, shot Montel Waller, 25, once in the neck during an altercation Aug. 20, 2016, at the Paradise Club in Texarkana, Ark. Waller was at the club playing pool with friends as witnesses testified he did most every Friday night.
In security video footage played for the jury, Coakley can be seen dancing around the pool table area in the club. In her closing arguments, Prosecuting Attorney Stephanie Black pointed out that Coakley could have easily avoided contact with Waller and Jones in the large club which has a boxing ring, a dance floor, a bar and ample seating.
“I told you in the beginning, this case is about a man with a grudge and a gun,” Black said. “This family has been terrorized by this man for years. He knew exactly what he was doing.”
Coakley’s defense attorney, Jeff Harrelson of Texarkana, argued Coakley acted in self defense after being punched by Waller’s brother, Javon Jones, and while in fear of an attack by Waller.
Waller’s brother, Javon Jones, testified Tuesday that he believed Coakley was looking for a fight as he had done multiple times in the past. In the video, Waller can be seen resting his pool stick against a wall before walking toward Coakley. As he does, Coakley waves at him. Witnesses testified Coakley was saying, “Run up, run up.”
As Waller approaches Coakley, Coakley pulls out a gun and fires. The people in the club scatter, duck for cover and run for the door.
Waller died Sept. 12, 2016, in a local hospital after being declared brain dead. His organs were donated at his family’s request.
“That was not three weeks of living folks, that was three weeks of dying,” Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Kristian Robertson argued in closing.
Robertson and Black pointed out that Coakley left the club several times and could have left without the violent, deadly confrontation.
“He left the club, went out to his car, he got that gun and he shot Montel Waller,” Robertson argued.
Coakley was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2014 for firing multiple rounds from an assault rifle at Jones, Waller, and other members of their family during July 2013 in the Ash Street area of Texarkana, Ark., where Waller’s and Jones’ family live. Coakley was on parole for that offense and prohibited from carrying a weapon at the time of the Paradise Club shooting.
Because of Coakley’s prior criminal record, his punishment range had been enhanced so that the only sentence available for a conviction of murder was life. There is no parole from a sentence of life in Arkansas.