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Shooting case against ex-official to continue

May 11, 2019

HUNTINGTON — Probable cause to continue toward a trial was found Friday in a case in which a former city councilman is accused of shooting a man.

A preliminary hearing regarding the April 27 incident was held in Cabell County Magistrate Court before Magistrate Mike McCarthy. Tom McCallister, 78, a former Huntington City Council member and mayoral candidate, is charged with malicious wounding. He is accused of shooting Ron McDowell Jr. around 4:10 p.m. that day in the 400 block of West 3rd Street — an action his attorney says was made in self-defense.

McDowell is currently paralyzed and unable to breathe on his own and has pneumonia, according to police. He is able to move his left hand and mouth words, but cannot speak. He remains hospitalized and on a ventilator.

Andre Jackson, the lead investigator on the case, gave details of the situation during questioning from both the prosecution and defense Friday.

According to Jackson, the 911 call to report the incident came from McDowell himself, who told dispatchers that two men, now known to be Tom McCallister and his brother Johnny McCallister, were holding him at gunpoint. He was shot while on the phone with 911, and the line remained open when McDowell fell from his injuries.

Johnny McCallister is a retired Cabell County magistrate.

McDowell was found on the ground on his back with a gunshot wound to his neck, an open flip cellphone in his right hand and a closed pocket knife near his right arm, Jackson testified. The bullet entered McDowell’s neck and went through his C5 and C6 vertebrae, leaving him paralyzed.

Two handguns were recovered from the McCallisters, Jackson said. The gun belonging to Johnny McCallister had five unspent bullets, while the gun that allegedly belonged to Tom McCallister had four unspent bullets and a spent casing was located. Video evidence collected from a witness that depicts the aftermath of the shooting indicates Tom McCallister had a gun in his hand and Johnny McCallister’s gun was holstered, according to Jackson.

Jackson also said Tom McCallister told the responding officer he shot McDowell when asked.

The witnesses police interviewed include a woman who lives near Tom McCallister and appeared to be “under the influence” of a substance and “incoherent” when she gave her statement to police. A second witness was a man who watched the incident from the parking lot of a nearby restaurant. Jackson said other attempts to interview witnesses have failed because they said they did not want to get involved with the McCallisters.

Tom McCallister is represented by Rich Weston. The defense asked McCarthy that probable cause not be found, arguing it was not clear that Tom McCallister had committed a crime because it is legal to shoot someone in self-defense. The defense alleges McDowell was attempting to break into a garage owned by one of the McCallisters, and that McDowell was threatening the brothers with a knife.

“Mr. McCallister is charged with malicious or unlawful assault,” Weston said. “Nothing on the stand indicated any type of malice, evil or ill will. Nothing at all has been talked about in regard to that, and as a matter of fact, nothing has been talked about in regard that he did anything unlawful.”

Prosecuting attorney Sean “Corky” Hammers argued probable cause should be found because there is no evidence Tom McCallister was provoked in a way that would justify the shooting.

“I think there’s no question that (McCallister) did it; he admitted to it,” Hammers said in a closing statement.

The case will move on to circuit court.

Follow reporter Megan Osborne on Twitter and Facebook @megosborneHD.

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