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News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.

Man describes series of events that led to best friend's death

Andrew M. Cassaday
Andrew M. Cassaday
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.The Associated Press
Tuesday, April 18, 2017 04:46 pm

The best friend of a man shot to death last August at Texas Roadhouse testified Tuesday in Allen Superior Court about the events that led up to the fatal shooting, the result of a falling out among motorcycle club members in late 2015.

Andrew M. Cassaday, 29, of the 3200 block of Chancellor Drive, is on trial this week for allegedly murdering Jeffrey M. Lute, 28, on Aug. 14 at Texas Roadhouse, 710 W. Washington Center Road. He also is charged with being a felon carrying a handgun with a prior felony conviction within the last 15 years.

Justin Clark, who defined his relationship with Lute as "like brothers," testified Tuesday morning the two of them rode their motorcycles that afternoon to the home of Lute's parents, where both were living at the time. Clark said they watched videos Lute had shot from his phone, a hobby that earned Lute the nickname "Spielberg." After consuming a beer or two, Clark said he was contacted by a friend to eat dinner at Texas Roadhouse. Clark and Lute would be joined by three women friends.

After one friend shared a Snapchat of everyone at the table, a member of the Steel Horse Rebels, Phil Elkins, texted her. Clark said, at one point he and Elkins had roomed together, but a falling out in late 2015 created tension between Elkins and Lute's family, resulting in the Lutes and Clark leaving the club.

After dinner, Clark said they were walking to their cars when a "flash mob pretty much arose out of nowhere" about 5 or 8 feet behind Clark's car. He said one member of the motorcycle club approached Lute, calling him names. When Lute held up his cellphone as if he were videotaping what was taking place, that member stepped back and Cassaday took his place, choosing to get physical with Lute who was now backing up, Clark said. It was at this point, Elkins ran from someplace in the parking lot and began to push and punch Lute, Clark testified.

Lute begged for Elkins to stop, and Clark said he told Lute, "Pull your firearm if you have to." The crowd began to separate in such a way that separated Clark from Lute, but he heard Elkins tell Lute, "If you're going to shoot me, you better kill me." Lute then shot Elkins in the right leg. Lute then began to videotape everything that took place until his death a few moments later.

Clark said immediately after Elkins had been shot, club members began tending to him. He said he saw Cassaday briskly walk to his car to get a gun, hold it up and shoot toward the northwest corner of the restaurant. He said he then saw Cassaday drive his car to Elkins, load him into the car and head to the hospital.

Clark said Lute ran eastward, but lost sight of him. Matter-of-fact, Clark didn't know Lute had been shot until after the police arrived and an employee of the restaurant alerted the police to Lute's body, which was lying the opposite corner of the building where Elkins had been shot. He said he saw Lute lying face down, with blood coming out of the right side of his neck. He checked Lute, but he wasn't breathing. Clark said he became a "complete emotional disaster."

Despite repeated requests from defense attorney Jon S. Tipton to pinpoint everyone's location in the parking lot during the shooting, Clark remained composed and answered the questions.

Afternoon's testimony focused on the cellphone video shot by Lute. Fort Wayne Police released the phone to Lute's father, Larry, to unlock the phone for them because iPhones are more difficult to "crack," according to Fort Wayne Police Department Det. John Helmsing. Tipton's line of questioning led others in the courtroom to think some of the video had been deleted. When asked if files can be permanently deleted from an iPhone, Helmsing said, "Not without doing a factory reset."

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