CLEARFIELD – The homicide trial got under way Monday for a Hawk Run man who has been accused of shooting and killing another man in late October of last year.
Dustin Tyler Thomas, 28, has been charged by Cpl. Matthew Gray of the Clearfield-based state police with criminal homicide, aggravated assault, simple assault and recklessly endangering another person.
Clearfield County District Attorney William A. Shaw Jr. is presenting the case on behalf of the commonwealth. Thomas is being represented by defense attorneys Stephanie Cooper and Alison Glunt of Bellefonte. The Honorable Judge Paul Cherry is presiding over the case.
The charges stem from the death of Brett M. Bamat, 36, of Philipsburg on the night of Oct. 30, 2017 at a Bass Lane residence in Morrisdale.
Bamat’s sister-in-law, Valerie, testified first and detailed the events from the night in question. She arrived home to her trailer with Bamat around 5 p.m., and Thomas was already there doing work around her residence.
She described Thomas as being a close friend of her husband who is currently in prison. She told him he needed to leave, but Bamat wanted him to stay to help out. She said Bamat and Thomas worked outside while she was doing housework inside her home.
According to her, Bamat and Thomas came inside around 6:30 p.m. to do an indoor project. She said it was a project her husband told her to have done when they spoke by phone earlier in the day.
She was preparing to leave to go to her mother-in-law’s residence for dinner with Bamat. However, she said Thomas suggested she take him and Bamat to Sutton’s Bar. She declined.
She testified that Thomas had been drinking Bird Dog whiskey and Bamat had been drinking vodka mixed with sweet tea. She also said that Thomas is known to carry his gun in its holster on his side, and he had it on him that night.
Around 8 p.m., she said her husband called from the Perry County Prison. She told him that Thomas and Bamat were there, and he said Thomas needed to leave.
When she advised Thomas that it was time for him to go, she said his face turned red and he started to cry. A short time later, Thomas pulled his gun out from its holster.
She said when Bamat asked him why he had his gun out, Thomas commented that “it is my muscle.” She said Bamat told him if he wanted to fight, they could go outside and fight.
After that, she said the two men seemed to be friendly with each other again and things went back to normal. They went into the living room area, were discussing hunting and Bamat was showing Thomas a crossbow.
While Bamat had his back turned, she said Thomas pulled the gun from its holster again and put it behind his back. When Bamat turned back around, he asked Thomas why he was holding his gun behind his back.
She said Thomas put the gun back in its holster again, they started shoving each other and she told the two men to get outside. She was prepared to leave for dinner with Bamat, handed him bags of groceries and asked him to go to her car.
According to her, Bamat put the bags in her car but didn’t get in like she had told him to. He went back to the porch area and Thomas was standing there. She attempted to get Thomas to leave, and he became upset and was crying.
She said Thomas and Bamat started shoving each other again. While she stepped back inside briefly, she heard a gunshot. She went outside and Bamat was lying in a fetal position on the ground and Thomas was standing on the porch.
“He was emotionless,” she testified. Thomas walked away to his vehicle and she asked if he would help her tend to Bamat. A short while later, she heard a second gunshot come from the vehicle and went to Thomas asking for the gun.
She said Thomas wouldn’t give it to her and made the comment that he just wanted to go kill himself. She told him that wouldn’t help anything and at that point, he said he wanted to go home.
After Thomas drove away, she went back to her brother-in-law and found him lying in her yard lifeless. “He was shot in his heart,” she said during her tearful testimony.
She called Bamat’s mother to tell her that he’d been shot and then 911. She said she performed chest compressions on Bamat until the first state trooper and emergency personnel arrived at the scene.
Tpr. Kyle D. Lowry was the first to arrive at around 8:44 p.m., and a female was running towards him. He said she told him that Bamat had been shot and they needed help.
Lowry said he ran up and took over life-saving efforts until emergency medical services was on scene. He said “he did all he could” for Bamat, who was later deemed to be deceased by emergency personnel.
Sgt. Michael C. Gray, formerly of the Philipsburg-based state police barracks and currently of the Troop C Headquarters in Punxsutawney, heard about a shooting in Hawk Run via a state police radio system.
He said that around 9 p.m., he was requested to assist with the search for Thomas and to provide any available personnel from his station.
Gray was advised the victim was deceased and the suspect had been identified as Thomas. He said he obtained a photograph from the Justice Network and he, along with another trooper, responded to Thomas’ Glastonbury Street residence in Hawk Run.
When he arrived, troopers were establishing a perimeter for security purposes. He said they didn’t believe Thomas was inside, because his green-colored Jeep Grand Cherokee wasn’t in the driveway.
A few minutes later, Gray observed Thomas slowly drive up and another trooper alerted that “it’s him.” Gray said he drew his duty weapon and tactically approached with the vehicle illuminated.
He saw Thomas inside with his hands gripped on the steering wheel. Gray opened the driver’s side door and ordered Thomas out of the vehicle. Thomas refused and Gray and another trooper attempted to physically remove him.
Gray said the situation intensified when another trooper alerted that Thomas had a handgun holstered to his right side. He advised Thomas that if he continued to resist commands, he would deploy his taser.
He ultimately tased Thomas enough to loosen his grips, so that they could remove him from his Jeep. They placed him on the ground, at which point Gray said Thomas continued to resist and tussle with three or four troopers.
He testified that it took “a lot of effort” for them to gain control and for him to remove Thomas’ handgun from his holster. He said the weapon was fully-loaded and ready to go, and he took it to his patrol unit to make it safe.
Gray said he turned the weapon over to Cpl. Mark McGinnis, who was the officer in charge at this location. McGinnis secured it in the evidence room at the Clearfield barracks and it was later transported to the State Police Crime Laboratory in Erie.
Cpl. Dale Wimer, an expert toolmarks and firearms examiner, tested Thomas’ handgun and was unable to get it to accidentally discharge. He concluded the spent bullet, which was recovered from Bamat, was discharged from it.
The trial will resume at 9 a.m. Tuesday in Courtroom No. 1 at the Clearfield County Courthouse. It is scheduled to run through Friday.