June 6, 1996 in Nation/World

Survivor Recounts Fatal Shooting Teen Thought Sounds Were Firecrackers Until She Saw Her Friends Fall Dead

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Tags:trial

At first, Amanda Denny thought her brother was playing a trick on her. The popping sounds were firecrackers he’d lighted to scare her on the front porch, she thought.

Then the bodies of her friends fell around her.

“I was like, ‘Oh my God, I’m going to die,”’ Denny said in court Wednesday. “I dove to the ground. … A bullet skimmed my left side.”

Denny, 14, was one of two girls who survived the shooting at her north Spokane home last Aug. 9. Her friends - Kendra Grantham, 16, and Cindy Buffin, 17 - were killed. Sadie Maddox, 13, was not injured.

Denny’s former boyfriend, Kenneth “Junior” Comeslast, is on trial for the shootings this week in Superior Court. He is charged with two counts of aggravated murder and two counts of attempted murder, facing life imprisonment without parole if convicted.

In court Wednesday, Denny gave her first public account of the shootings.

The emotional testimony gave jurors a glimpse of the scene on the front porch just before the gunfire: four young girls sitting in white patio chairs, laughing together on a warm summer night.

Then, Denny and Maddox testified, they saw bright orange flashes on the side of the porch behind Buffin. Their thoughts of firecrackers vanished when Buffin fell backward in her chair and landed on the floor.

Grantham bolted for the screen door to get inside. A bullet pierced the back of her head and she fell hard, in front of Denny.

“I was screaming on the ground,” Denny said, crying at the memory. “I was curled in a ball … Then my brother pulled me inside.”

Maddox crawled in after her and hid in a closet until police arrived.

“I was scared,” Maddox said. “I didn’t know if it was over.”

Prosecutors say Comeslast is a gang member who wanted revenge on rival gangsters who frequented Denny’s Hillyard home. He particularly disliked Denny’s older brother, Eric, and threatened to kill Denny before, they said.

He loaded an SKS assault rifle with hollow-point bullets and opened fire on the house at 2928 East Central shortly before 2 a.m., prosecutors said.

Defense attorneys deny the shooting was gang-related. They said Comeslast and several friends only meant to frighten the youths that night.

They have not acknowledged that Comeslast was the shooter and emphasized to jurors Wednesday that no witnesses can identify him as firing at the girls.

Even Denny, who got the best look at the suspect as he crept around the house, isn’t sure it was Comeslast, said Assistant Public Defender Richard Fasy.

During cross-examination, he reminded Denny of the description of the gunman she first gave police: tall, white, with light-colored hair. Comeslast is a Native American with black hair.

“He had a black hood over his head,” Denny testified. “I saw him for like three seconds … I’m not sure what color (his hair) was.”

In other testimony Wednesday, Spokane police Detective Nick Stanley showed crime scene photographs and pointed out where more than a dozen shell casings were found near the Denny home.

A neighbor told jurors he saw the gunman running backward from the house, firing the rifle from his hip as he went. He then climbed into an idling station wagon and sped away, the neighbor said.

The trial will continue today and is expected to last through next week.

, DataTimes

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