1. News & Issues
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

The Shooting of Officer Mark MacPhail

The Case Against Troy Davis


Mark Allen MacPhail

Slain Officer Mark Allen MacPhail

Savannah Police Dept.
The following account is taken directly from court records of eyewitness testimony of the events leading up to and following the shooting death of off-duty police officer Mark Allen MacPhail on Aug. 19, 1989 in the Burger King parking lot at 601 W. Oglethorpe Ave., Savannah, Georgia.

The Cloverdale Shooting

On the evening of Aug. 18, 1989, Troy Davis went to a pool party in Savannah's Cloverdale neighborhood with Eric Ellison and Darrell Collins. During the party, Davis got into an argument with Mark Wilds about talking to some girls.

Mark Wilds and his friends - Lamar Brown, Benjamin Gordon, Joseph Blig and Michael Cooper - decided to leave the party. As they were driving away, some of them shouted insults out of the car window and began throwing things. As they approached the corner, Troy Davis began firing at them from behind the bushes, hitting a passenger, Michael Cooper, in the face.

Witnesses in the car said the man who shot at them from the bushes was wearing a white t-shirt and black pants or shorts.

Davis Goes to the Pool Hall

Savannah police received a 9-1-1 call about the shooting at 11:29 p.m. Cooper was admitted to the hospital shortly after midnight on Aug. 19.

After the shooting, Ellison and Collins drove to Ellison's home. They later decided to go get gas for Ellison's car at the Time-Saver convenience store in the Yamacraw neighborhood. On the way, they saw Davis walking and stopped to give him a ride. They also picked up Jeffrey Sams.

When they arrived at the Time-Saver, they all went inside the store and then went into Charlie Brown's pool hall next door. The group split up in the pool hall. Later, Ellison and Collins struck up a conversation outside with Sylvester "Red" Coles, who was wearing a yellow t-shirt.

Red Coles Had a Gun

Coles later admitted to police that he was carrying a long-barreled, chrome .38 caliber revolver, but he gave it to Jeffrey Sams, who was sitting in Ellison's vehicle, for safekeeping while he went into the pool hall to shoot pool.

Sams told police that he placed the gun on the front seat of Ellison's car, but Darrell Collins did not want the gun in the car, so Collins took the gun and hid it in some bushes next to the pool hall.

Coles never saw the gun again, he told police.

It Started Over a Beer

Meanwhile, Larry Young and his girlfriend Harriet Murray had been sitting at the nearby Burger King parking lot drinking beer. When they ran out of beer, Young walked to the Time-Saver to get more.

As he was leaving the convenience store, Young got into a conversation with Coles, who asked him for one of the beers that he had just purchased. Young refused to give him a beer and began walking back toward the Burger King parking lot.

Coles began following Young and the two exchanged words. Young said that he didn't want to get into a fight with anyone and again turned away toward the Burger King. He hurried his steps as he realized that he was now being followed by three men - Coles, Collins and Davis.

Davis Pistol Whips Larry Young

As he stopped once again to exchange words with Coles, Davis came up behind him and hit him on the right side of his head with the butt of a with a small, snub-nose .38 with a black or brown handle. Coles told police he had seen the gun sticking out of Davis' pants earlier when they were in the pool hall.

Several witnesses said Young was hit by a dark-colored, short barreled gun with a black handle, not a shiny, chrome-colored, long-barrelled gun like Coles said he had.

After he was hit in the head by Davis, Young ran up to the drive-up window of the Burger King, where a van with several people inside was waiting, and asked someone to call the police.

Davis Shoots Officer MacPhail

At this point, off-duty policeman Mark MacPhail, who was working security at the Greyhound Bus Station Terminal connected to the Burger King, approached the scene with his night stick in hand and told Davis, Coles and Collins to "hold it!" The three began to walk away from the scene toward the Trust Company Bank building.

As MacPhail closed within five feet of the fleeing men, Davis turned and aimed his gun at the officer and tried to shoot, but the gun misfired. Seeing this, MacPhail then reached for his own gun, but Davis shot again and hit him in the face.

MacPhail fell to the ground. Before he could get back to his feet, Davis walked toward him, stood over him and fired three more shots. Some witnesses reported hearing only three shots, while others said there were a total of four.

Shooter in a White T-Shirt

The incident was witnesses by more than a dozen people, including Young and his girlfriend Murray, eight people waiting in the van at the drive-up window, a Burger King employee and an employee of the Thunderbird Inn across the street.

The Thunderbird Inn employee reported the shooting to 9-1-1 at 1:09 a.m.

In their initial statements to police, the witnesses agreed that although Young was in an argument with the man in the yellow shirt (Coles), it was the smaller man in the white shirt (Davis) who hit Young in the head and shot officer MacPhail.

Coles and Collins both told police that they began to run away as officer MacPhail approached the scene. Neither of them actually saw Davis pull the trigger, they said, but they heard gunshots behind them and began to run faster.

A Change of Shirts

After the shooting, Collins ran back to Ellison's car and they drove home. Coles ran to the home of his sister, Valerie Gordon, who lived in Yamacraw Village, and sat on her front porch.

Coles told his sister he didn't know what was going on with the gunshots that she heard, but feared that someone may be trying to kill him.

Gordon told police that Coles changed out of the yellow t-shirt that he was wearing and into a red, white, and blue stripped collared shirt that she gave him. She also said that Davis came onto her front porch and was not wearing a shirt.

Coles gave Davis the yellow shirt that he had previously been wearing and Davis put it on. Later, Gordon said Coles left her house and she went inside. A few minutes later, she saw Davis take off the yellow shirt, lay it just inside her front door and then leave her property.

Davis Confesses to Friends

Later that morning, Davis went to visit his friend Monty Holmes, who had just returned to town. Davis told Holmes that he shot MacPhail because he thought the officer was reaching for his firearm. Holmes said that Davis told him, after he shot the officer the first time, he had to "finish the job."

Holmes told police he thought Davis' confession was a joke.

Around 2 p.m. the same day, a close friend of Davis, Jeffrey Sapp, saw Davis riding a bicycle by his home and they stopped to talk. After Sapp told Davis that he heard an officer had been shot, Davis confessed that he was the shooter. Davis told Sapp that he shot the officer because the officer was reaching for his firearm.

He 'Finished the Job'

Thinking that the officer got a good look at his face, Davis told Sapp that he "finished the job." Sapp told police that he did not believe Davis' story.

Four days later, Davis surrendered to police. He was charged with the murder of Officer MacPhail, aggravated assault on Michael Cooper, obstruction of a law officer, and possession of a gun in commission of a felony.

On Aug. 28, 1991, after 11 days of testimony from 34 state witnesses and five defense witnesses, the jury deliberated for less than two hours before finding Davis guilty of all counts.

He was given the death penalty.

Source: United States District Court For The Southern District Of Georgia Savannah Division. "Troy Anthony Davis Case No. CV409-130 (PDF)." 24 August 2010.

  1. About.com
  2. News & Issues
  3. Crime
  4. Historical Crimes
  5. Infamous Murders
  6. The Shooting of Officer Mark MacPhail

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.