Man found guilty in shooting death of anti-violence activist Jason Roberts

DAVENPORT, Iowa -- A jury has found 37-year-old Deondra Thomas guilty in of first-degree murder in the shooting death of 46-year-old Jason Roberts in downtown Davenport last June.

The verdict came down Wednesday morning, January 16, after about 45 minutes of deliberation. Jurors also found Thomas guilty on a charge of firearms possession by a felon. He faces a mandatory life sentence for the murder charge.

"It was a quick verdict, one of the quicker verdicts I have experienced in this type of case," Scott County Attorney Mike Walton contended.

The jury, a panel of seven men and five women, had heard several days of testimony.

"The state presented its case very well. We did take our time and came to the same conclusion," one juror tells WQAD News 8.

She said she found the state's witnesses compelling.

Over five days of testimony, prosecutors had presented witnesses who knew both Thomas and Roberts. Key among them was Thomas' cousin, who told jurors Thomas admitted to the shooting as they were driving away from MVP minutes after shots were fired.

Other witnesses at the scene say they saw Thomas raise his arms as drawing a gun, heard shots, and saw Thomas walking away calmly before getting into a maroon SUV.

"We had a couple witness that came forward that were very brave, and that testified truthfully as to what they saw and heard and that makes a difference," Walton said.

Prosecutors say Roberts was shot three times as he tried to break up a fight outside the bar.

"The evidence showed you had somebody who had a gun, who used it against a man who did not deserve it. A good man by all accounts who was just trying to be a peacekeeper," Walton said. "The gun was used to kill him."

Authorities believe the gun to be a Glock 9mm semi-automatic pistol. It was never recovered.

In closing arguments, Walton reminded jurors that they must weigh both direct and circumstantial evidence.

Throughout the trial, Thomas' defense sought to question some of the witnesses' testimonies. Several had testified despite reservations about their safety.

Roberts' family acknowledged their bravery in taking the stand.

"We also liked to thank those who came forward to tell the truth. We will forever appreciate their courage. While justice has been served, it will not bring our sweet Jason Blair back to us. However we have peace in knowing the killer has been found accountable by law for his crime," Roberts' sister-in-law said in a statement read on behalf of his family,

Roberts was one of the founders of the Quad Cities group 'Boots on the Ground' a grassroots effort to fight the very thing that killed him, gun violence, an issue that's become commonplace in the Quad Cities.

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