BRUNSWICK, Ga. – A 29-year-old Brunswick man was found guilty last week in Glynn County of aggravated assault, possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon in a July 2021 shooting in Brunswick.
Bruce Christopher Stephens shot 23-year-old Justavian Lavar Simmons during a fight July 29, 2021, in the front yard of a home on Burroughs Avenue.
According to evidence at trial, the fight broke out between three women over a man one of the women was dating and another had previously been involved with.
During the course of the argument, Simmons, who lived across the street, along with members of his family and other neighbors, stepped outside to watch. Simmons began to film the fight on his phone, but also tried to break it up.
It was then that Stephens, the brother of one of the women in the fight, stepped outside and fired four shots from a 9mm handgun.
As everyone fled, Simmons was hit in the stomach and suffered devastating injuries. He was airlifted to UF Shands and had to have his intestines removed. He has spent most of his days since that night in hospitals. His only hope is to receive an intestinal transplant. Because he is still in a hospital and unable to leave, Simmons did not testify during the two-day trial; however, the video of the fight was shown at trial. While it did not show Stephens shooting, it does capture the sound of the gunshots and the phone falling to the ground as Simmons ran.
“The facts of this case are particularly tragic. Justavian was in the wrong place at the wrong time. While one can understand the defendant wanting to defend his sister, his actions were completely unreasonable and the force used excessive. You can’t bring a gun to a fistfight,” said Chief Assistant District Attorney Nigel Lush. “The defendant took no time to assess the situation before opening fire. It wasn’t a matter of life and death for his sister. Our prayers are with Justavian, his child and the rest of his family that he can get the intestinal transplant he needs.”
On cross-examination, the defendant acknowledged that he only took two seconds to assess the situation before opening fire. He also testified that the first two shots were warning shots to break up the fight and that the second two were to get people off of his property. He agreed that after the first two shots, Justavian, who he wrongly believed was involved in the fight, was running away and must have crossed into the path of the bullets.
The jury trial was presided over by Judge Stephen D. Kelley, and sentencing will be scheduled for a later date. Stephens faces a maximum sentence of 35 years in prison.