72ºF

'It's all my fault': Jury hears 911 call at trial of Houston teen accused of killing parents

HOUSTON – A Houston teen accused of killing his parents claimed, "It's all my fault" to a dispatcher during the 911 call he made following the shootings.

Antonio Armstrong Jr. is accused of fatally shooting his parents at the family's home near Bellaire in July 2016. He is charged with capital murder.

Jurors listened Wednesday as prosecutors played audio of the 911 call Armstrong made at 1:40 a.m. the day of the killings. By the time he made the call, Dawn Armstrong was dead from a gunshot wound to the head.

Antonio Armstrong Sr. was shot in the head, as well, although he was pronounced dead at a hospital.

At the beginning of the call, a dispatcher can be heard asking if medical attention was needed. The seemingly confused teen responded, "I ... I heard gunshots so I don't really know, 'cause I ..." The dispatcher then asked if the sound came from his parents' bedroom.

"Yes," Armstrong responded. "Yes, and their door is cracked open, and it's never cracked open."

"Did it sound like a handgun, rifle or shotgun?" the dispatcher asked.

"I'm not good with guns, but I ... I guess like a ... I don't know, um ... 15 or something like that. I know my dad has a gun underneath the ... God, where does he keep his gun?" a confused Armstrong can be heard saying before he continued, "Um ... I think he keeps it in this drawer right next to his bed."

The call continued with Armstrong giving the dispatcher directions to the family's home, which is located along the 5300 block of Palmetto Street, near Bellaire in southwest Houston.

Houston police arrested the then-16-year-old after investigators determined Antonio Armstrong Sr. and Dawn Armstrong's killer came from within the home.

Armstrong’s defense team did not have a chance to respond to the audio recordings during court Wednesday but did so in remarks to reporters after proceedings wrapped for the day.

Rick DeToto, Armstrong’s defense attorney, said the audio of his client saying, “It’s all my fault” was misleading.

“A.J. says that it’s all his fault that he didn’t stop the mass intruder, and he felt guilty about that. It’s not a confession. They tried to play it that way, but it’s not a confession,” DeToto said.

DeToto said jurors will have a chance to hear Armstrong’s full statement to Houston Police Department homicide detectives as soon as Thursday.

Armstrong maintains his innocence, claiming he saw a masked person in the home after hearing gunshots.

After the prosecution played the 911 audio, it called a Houston police officer to the stand. Officer Jimmy James was assigned to HPD’s Crime Scene Unit, tasked with taking pictures and shooting video of the Armstrongs' home after the crime.

Jurors saw some of the photographs and video James recorded. The video started with footage of the home’s exterior, continuing inside the home.

The video documents the murder weapon, which police found on a kitchen counter with a note next to it. The video continues to the master bedroom on the second floor, where the victims were shot.

Jurors watched footage of bloodstains on the couple’s bed, bloody pillows and Dawn Armstrong’s lifeless body, with an apparent gunshot wound to the head.

The defendant wept when he saw his mother dead in her bed. His defense team could be seen consoling him as his head sank into the palms of his hands.

During his testimony, James said his documentation was thorough.

“Did you miss anything that night at the Armstrong house? asked the prosecutor, John Brewer, referring to evidence James collected.

“No, sir,” James replied.

But the defense poked holes in that claim during the cross examination. DeTodo questioned James at length about motion sensors in the home. He also asked James if he documented a keypad near the garage door.

“There’s no fingerprints in this case involving the keypad, right?” DeTodo asked James during cross examination.

“Yes, sir,” James replied.

After court, DeTodo told reporters James’ claim that he documented a thorough sweep of evidence inside the Armstrongs’ home was false.

“He had no idea regarding the vast majority of the layout of the house after being there for seven hours, so that’s reasonable doubt,” DeTodo said.

Court resumes Thursday at 9 a.m. KPRC2 will be there and provide updates throughout the day.