Brent L. Cooley was found not guilty Thursday on four charges, including attempted murder, stemming from a July, 2013, shooting in Fontanet.

The 12-member jury in Vigo County Superior Court Division 1 deliberated just over an hour before reaching its decision.

After Judge John T. Roach read all the verdicts, Cooley, 48, said “thank you,” as he looked at the jury.

Asked to tell his thoughts on the verdict, Cooley said, “I don’t know if I can right now,” as he exited the courtroom and looked at his mother, who was weeping.

Norma Bryan, Cooley’s mother, and Larry Bryan, his step-father, attended the trial. “I am giving God all the glory. God answered our prayers,” Norma Bryan said in between tears. “I was afraid they would believe [Joshua Lankford].”

Cooley had faced a class-A felony for attempted murder, along with a class-C felony of battery by means of a deadly weapon against Joshua Lankford. He also faced a class-C felony of intimidation and a class-D felony of pointing a weapon, both against Tim Lankford, Joshua’s father.

However, the defense said Cooley acted in self-defense, saying Joshua Lankford had come at Cooley with a machete or similar weapon. Police testified they did not find a weapon matching that description at the scene.

In defense testimony Thursday, the jury heard from Khosrow “Nema” Nematollahi, who is an associate faculty member of mechanical engineering at the Purdue School of Engineering and Technology at Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis. Nematollahi is chairman for CAE-net, a Carmel-based engineering company specializing in modeling, simulation and armor.

Nematollahi’s company was issued a patent for its armoring device for protecting an object, developed by Nematollahi and associates, that can be used in bulletproof vests, military helmets, military vehicles and anti-blast walls. The device can slow down and destroy a bullet shot into the armoring device. The protective devices are made of ceramic material, plastic, metal and polymer fabrics.

Nematollahi testified as an expert in ballistics and in reconstructing the trajectory of a bullet. Joshua Lankford testified Cooley shot a bullet at him that glanced his cheek. Nema testified that a .45 caliber bullet would have traveled past Lankford and struck the side of his father’s home at a height of 73 inches. 

However, police measured a bullet hole in the side of the home at a height of 42.5 inches. Nematollahi testified the bullet was damaged, saying the damage would have had to be caused by something hard, such as stone or gravel. The defense contended that Cooley shot in self defense. While he is right handed, he used his left hand to shoot and the shot, the defense contended, had hit the ground and ricocheted.

In addition, Nematollahi stated if the bullet had gone straight, as Lankford had testified, the bullet, because of its velocity, would have been lodged two to three inches inside the side of the house. Instead, the bullet was found just behind aluminum siding, suggesting it did not have enough velocity to penetrate the material deeper.

Defense attorney Ed McGlone suggested the prosecution did not provide evidence to support its contentions, saying the state could have sought a DNA test on the bullet to see if it had struck Lankford. In addition, no medical evidence was presented to show Lankford was injured.

“Joshua Lankford declined medical attention” while at the scene of the 2013 shooting, McGlone said. “Maybe he didn’t want a doctor to see that any injury to his cheek was not caused by a bullet,” McGlone told the jury. Lankford, however, previously testified that a bullet only grazed his cheek and did not cause any bleeding.

During earlier testimony from Joshua Lankford, the jury heard that Lankford was convicted in 2004 on two counts of robbery, a point McGlone referred to in closing arguments.

 

Howard Greninger can be reached at 812-231-4204 or howard.greninger@tribstar.com.

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