Was Christopher Bonds intending to kill his friend, or was he protecting his family from a threat when he shot Byron “Cheese” Williams?
A 3rd District jury said Bonds was not acting in defense when he fired three rounds at his friend’s back. After deliberating for nearly 11 hours, the jurors rendered a guilty verdict just after 6 p.m. Thursday.
Bonds, 27, was accused of murder, a first-degree felony, in the 2016 death of the 25-year-old Williams. He was also charged with first-degree-felony discharge of a firearm that caused serious bodily injury, second-degree-felony possession of a firearm by a restricted person and three third-degree-felony counts of discharge of a firearm.
Bonds was found guilty of all counts except for one discharge-of-a-firearm count.
During closing arguments, defense attorney Christopher Bown said the state didn’t show enough evidence to convict Bonds of murder.
After the verdict, a disappointed Bown said he appreciated how long the jury took to consider all the evidence.
Before the shooting, Bonds and Williams got in an argument at the bottom of a staircase in a West Valley City apartment building. No one else was there, and only Bonds survived. Without more information, it’s too hard to tell what happened, Bown said.
At about 1:50 a.m. on Nov. 20, 2016, West Valley City police were called to a report of shots fired at 1800 W. Parkway Blvd. (about 2600 South), where they found Williams in the parking lot of the apartment complex with a gunshot wound to his upper torso, charges state.
Williams was pronounced dead at a hospital about an hour later.
Bonds, who lived at the complex and was found nearby, told police that he and Williams were arguing and struggled over possession of Bonds’ 9 mm pistol, charges state.
Williams’ mother, Diamond Sangster, traveled from Texas to attend the trial. She said Bonds and Williams had known each other for 45 days before the killing. Williams had recently moved from Texas back to Salt Lake City, where he grew up. His two children were in the Utah capital, she said, and he got a job in the area.
Williams and Bonds spent that entire day together. They went to a soccer game, then they went to the liquor store and back to Bonds’ apartment for drinks. The two men, along with others, then went to Scallywags bar in South Salt Lake.
Sangster said Bonds got in a verbal altercation with a man at the bar. Shortly after, she said, Bonds and Williams went back to Bonds’ apartment. Bonds went to his room and got a 9 mm handgun from a safe, with the intention of going back to the bar to confront the man he was arguing with.
Bonds is the only person who knows what happened next, and he declined to testify at the trial. Sangster said she believes her son, whom she called a happy, peaceful man, confronted Bonds to try to stop him from leaving with the gun.
There was a scuffle over the gun at the bottom of a staircase. Whether a shot was accidentally fired or the slide of the gun was pulled back and a round was ejected is not clear, she said. No shell casing was found in the area of the scuffle, Sangster said.
Williams then ran away. According to Bown’s closing argument, Bonds said Williams told him he was going to kill Bonds’ children and shoot up a nearby residence.
As Williams ran in the direction of the residence where the children were, Bonds fired three shots at Williams. Williams suffered a gunshot wound to his arm and a fatal wound to his upper back.
Williams was taken to a hospital at 2:32 a.m. He was pronounced dead at 2:52 a.m.
During closing arguments, Bown told the jury in Judge Keith Kelly’s courtroom that there isn’t enough evidence to prove that Bonds didn’t shoot out of defense for his children. There isn’t enough evidence, he said, to prove that Bonds wasn’t so intoxicated that he didn’t have control of his actions, because police never drew his blood or conducted a breathalyzer test. There is not enough evidence for a murder conviction, Bown told the jury.
Sangster said she didn’t buy the argument.
“I feel like the state did an awesome job,” she said.
Shortly after the jury left the courtroom to deliberate, Sangster said she hopes to find some closure in the death of her son, who was nicknamed Cheese by a former football coach because he never stopped smiling.
While sending Bonds to prison doesn’t bring her son back, she said after the verdict, it makes the world a little bit safer.
“It takes some weight off my heart,” she said.
Bonds is scheduled to be sentenced March 5. Bown said it will finally give his client an opportunity to address Williams’ family. Throughout the process, Bonds has been remorseful for what happened, Bown said.