Charges dropped against coke lot murder suspect

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UPDATE (Dec. 9, 2015)– A jury found Avory Johnson not guilty of murder and carrying a handgun without a license.


MARION COUNTY, Ind. – After spending a couple of days in jail, Avory Johnson is back home and, his family told FOX59 News, confused about the murder charges he faced following a fatal shooting in the Coke Lot the weekend before the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race.

Kokomo resident Max Levine died early Saturday morning while camping in the lot near Turn 4 of the famed speedway while preparing to attend his first race.

“There was a verbal altercation that led to a physical altercation and, unfortunately, resulted in somebody losing their life,” said Speedway Police Lt. Trent Theobald.

Deadly shooting at the IMS Coke lot
Max Levine

Levine died in the first of two weekend shootings at the Coke Lot. Johnson, 19, was arrested after he was identified by several witnesses at the same time.

“They were together in one of the police vehicles,” said Theobald. “As they were brought to the area where (Johnson) was being detained and as they drove up with the spotlight, unfortunately, they were together at the time of this identification.”

Such a group identification can be problematic for prosecutors as the defense would likely claim the witnesses would influence each others decision.

“It can be quite chaotic and, for a time, it can be a little confusing for investigators and officers at the scene,” said Theobald. “It just led to having these witnesses together at the time of the identification.”

Theobald said there were no other suspects pointed out by witnesses and Speedway police have yet to recover a gun. They plan to research the Coke Lot now it has been cleared of debris.

Levine’s murder happened 24 hours before another shooting and an assault early Sunday morning.

Christopher Buckhalter, 18, was arrested for the beating of another race fan.

“A group of multiple suspects went up and beat one of the campers, taken some items from him and ran away,” Theobald said. “His friend that was sitting with him took chase after these multiple suspects and unfortunately one of the suspects pulled a gun and shot him.”

Both victims are recovering from their injuries.

At first Buckhalter denied the assault but later admitted he had been in a fight when his bloody t-shirt was discovered.

“They weren’t camping but they’re from the area,” said Theobald who determined that the Coke Lot and race fans have become a magnet for west side criminals at race time. “They’re mostly around the 34th and Georgetown area.”

Theobald said police would consider patrolling more in the Coke Lot during this summer’s Brickyard 400 NASCAR Race.

Johnson’s family told FOX59 News that the teenager is still confused over his arrest for murder and has never owned a gun. The family sent its condolences to the family of Max Levine.

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