Above: A photo of Aron Thomas posted on a GoFundMe page dedicated to a fund drive for his wife and children. Photo used with permission.
After just two hours of deliberations, on Tuesday, June 2, an Ulster County Court jury convicted David Reese of murdering his co-worker Aron Thomas at the Kingston offices of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection in February of 2014, according to the Daily Freeman and theTimes Herald-Record.
Thomas was fatally shot at the DEP's Kingston office early in the morning of Monday, February 3, 2014. Police and prosecutors say the Reese, a 55-year-old stationary engineer at the department who lived in Gilboa, shot and killed 33-year-old Thomas, who was a watershed maintainer from Olivebridge.
Left: David Reese in his booking photo from 2014.
The trial, which began on Wednesday, May 27, hinged on the question of whether Reese had plotted to kill Thomas or whether it was an accident.
Reese, who pled not guilty and who took the stand in his own defense yesterday, described the incident as an accident, according to the Freeman:
Reese said Thomas “cut me off” near Reese’s office the day of the shooting, apparently trying to get his attention. Reese said he then removed handgun from his waistband and hid it behind his right thigh before going into the maintenance shop where Thomas was working ... Reese said he confronted Thomas and accused him of stalking, then pulled out his gun when Thomas denied the accusation. Reese said Thomas reached for the gun with both hands, “as if he was trying to take the barrel,” and that he then punched Thomas in the face. As Thomas went down, the gun went off, firing one shot into the air, Reese testified. Reese said they struggled again and that he lost his balance, falling backward while gripping the gun in one hand and Thomas’ hooded sweatshirt in the other. As the two went down, Reese said, the gun discharged a second time, and a bullet struck Thomas.
Reese's defense attorneys presented evidence that Reese had a delusional disorder that led him to believe that Thomas had been stalking him at his home in Gilboa. DEP employee Thomas Hinchey, who was Aron Thomas' supervisor, also acknowledged on the witness stand that Thomas and another DEP employee often made racist comments about Reese, who is black:
Hinchey, who was the supervisor of Thomas and Williams, said the two often made fun of Reese, mostly for the way he talked, and that there was a lot of “tension” between the three co-workers. “There was racism,” he said under questioning by [Reese's attorney], “but it was more or less about the way he talked.”
In her closing argument, Ulster County Senior Assistant District Attorney Katherine Van Loan said that Reese, goaded by Thomas's racism, deliberately planned to kill Thomas, according to the Times Herald-Record:
Van Loan said the only reason Thomas was reaching for the gun was to fight for his life, and that Reese's motive came from the jealousy and racism he experienced at the DEP. The reality, she said, was that Reese didn't like Thomas. "This man made the choice to pull the trigger and execute Aron Thomas," she said.
The jury returned its verdict around 3 p.m. on Tuesday, after two and a half hours of deliberation, the two newspapers report. The jurors found Reese guilty of second-degree murder, which is punishable by anywhere from 25 years to life in prison. Reese will be sentenced on August 13.
Fatal shooting at DEP office in Kingston, February 4, 2014
Fund set up for family of shooting victim Aron Thomas, Feb. 2, 2014
Reese surrendered to DEP cop, sources say, Feb. 6, 2014
DEP cop says Reese told him: "I shot Aron twice", Feb. 10. 2014
DEP murder suspect David Reese indicted, March 26, 2014