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THURSDAY A.M.-- Eyewitness: Brown shot first

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By The Staff

By DAMON LAWRENCE

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rclawrence@bellsouth.net

After three days of cool analysis on ballistics, guns mechanics and police training, an eyewitness to the May 11, 2006, shootout took the stand in the Rocky Houston double-murder trial Thursday.

The testimony of Anne Watts was in sharp contrast to the clinical testimony of law enforcement experts.

Smoking with friends, a creeping patrol car, an agitated brother and sudden bursts of gunfire.

These, she said, are the things that transpired outside Rocky’s brother’s Barnard Narrows Road home the day a sheriff’s deputy and his ride-along passenger lost their lives there.

Watts strolled into the courtroom to testify about those events for the second time in five months on Thursday. She had a different hairdo than she sported over the summer, but the gist of the story she told a jury was the same.

Former lawman Mike Brown fired the first shot in the deadly gunfight.

“Without a doubt in my heart,” Watts affirmed in her testimony on that matter.

Brown was the passenger in a patrol car driven by Roane County Sheriff’s Deputy Bill Jones.

The two men were killed in the shootout with brothers Rocky and Leon Houston, who are claiming self-defense.

Watts previously testified during Leon’s July trial, which ended in a hung jury. She is the first — and could be the only — eyewitness to take the stand in Rocky’s trial.

She wept during the latter parts of her testimony on Thursday.

“I know this is difficult,” defense attorney Randy Rogers said. “It would be difficult for any of us.”

Shortly before she fled the scene, Watts testified she saw a look of horror on the faces of Jones and Brown.

However, her concern was about Rocky.

“For two hours I thought he was a dead man,” Watts said. “I kept saying, ‘Rocky’s dead. Rocky’s dead.’”

Watts said that when she arrived at Leon’s home around 5:30 p.m., she saw the patrol car pass by.

Was there anything unusual about it, she was asked.

“Other than it going slow, no,” Watts said.

Her testimony also debunked the folk tale of a happy feast consisting of Vienna sausages, canned peaches and chocolate milk some have reported.

Watts said there was no eating going on.

Instead, she, Leon, and four other friends gathered at the home were smoking a marijuana cigarette on the porch.

Later Rocky showed up aggravated, Watts said, because the patrol car had driven by. Two of the friends on the porch left to go buy cigarettes. Shortly after they departed, the patrol car headed toward the home again. This time Rocky got excited, Watts testified.

“He said, “It’s on now,” she said.

Watts remained steadfast that Brown fired first when the car pulled up to the home. She said she’s not sure who fired second.  

“As soon as the second and third shots ring out, I jumped off the porch and hit the ground,” Watts said.

Eventually she made her way to the back of the house were she met up with Tobey Yates and Jennie Lindley, the other two people at the home. All three fled.  

“Tobey said if you want to live, come with us, or they’ll kill you, too,” Watts said.

Watts also testified the patrol car’s final resting place differed from where it was sitting in pictures she was shown on the witness stand.

“According to the picture, it’s not in the same spot as I remember,” she said.  

Special prosecutor Kenneth Irvine called Watts to the witness stand.

He tried to raise doubts about her testimony, saying it differed from a statement she gave to the FBI.

According to agent Buddy Early, the statement she gave paints Rocky as the aggressor in the shootout.

He read portions of the statement outside the presence of the jury.    

“He jumped off the porch, ran toward the patrol car and he was firing his weapon,” Early said.

Early said Watts’ statement is based on a compilation of notes he took during their interview.

The FBI agent reported he did not record the interview.