Manslaughter trial

Witnesses: Fan initiated deadly fight in traffic

jmonk@thestate.comJanuary 31, 2013 

— A large man advanced on the pickup truck Allen Martin Gasque was riding in after a USC football game and punched him quickly several times, causing Gasque to fall out of the truck, which then ran him over and killed him, five witnesses testified Wednesday in court.

That large man who punched Gasque was Curtis Simms, the witnesses testified during the second day of a criminal trial in Richland County General Sessions Court.

Simms, 27, originally from Alabama but now a Columbia resident, is being tried for involuntary manslaughter. in Gasque’s death. Gasque, 20, died in congested traffic outside Williams-Brice Stadium while leaving a 2010 University of South Carolina football game.

“He (Simms) punched right through an open window,” testified Guy Eckenroth of Camden, who told jurors that Simms had advanced on the vehicle in which Gasque was riding and punched Gasque not just once, but several more times as Gasque was trying to open the pickup’s door and get out.

When Gasque, who had been sitting in the right passenger seat of the pickup, fell out of the vehicle onto Shop Road, he rolled over on his back so his body was lined up with the truck’s oversized right rear tire, Eckenroth testified.

“I knew he was knocked out. I’ve been in athletics long enough that I know when someone is knocked out,” testified Eckenroth, a longtime football coach at Camden High and science department chairman at Thomas Sumter Academy.

Seconds later, the large truck started forward and slowly ran over Gasque, Eckenroth testified.

“His legs were between the tire when he rolled over. The thing that sticks in my mind — I see it time and time again — is the tire ran over his abdomen and over his head.”

Simms then ran to Eckenroth’s car and pounded on the window screaming, “Call 911! Call 911!,” before running off down Shop Road, Eckenroth testified.

At the time, Eckenroth was driving the car directly behind Gasque. Both his and Gasque’s vehicles were in bumper-to-bumper traffic Oct. 9, 2010, just after the USC-Alabama football game.

Simms had come from a large vehicle that was trying to go from a parking area into the flow of traffic in front of Gasque’s pickup, Eckenroth testified.

Four other prosecution witnesses told the jury much the same story.

On cross-examination, defense lawyers Johnny Gasser and Greg Harris got all prosecution witnesses to admit they were wrong on details, such as estimates of various distances, colors of vehicles and the time of the incident.

Also on cross-examination, Gasser got prosecution witness Lauren Coggin, 23, an old high school friend of Simms riding with him that day, to tell the jury that Gasque was outside his truck and put a hand on Simms before Simms threw his first punch.

Earlier, in questioning by prosecutor Luck Campbell, Coggin acknowledged she told police right after the incident that Simms “was the aggressor.”

Simms’ lawyers are expected to begin his defense today.

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