Suspect taken into custody after taxi driver shot and killed
NEWPORT, Ky. (WKRC) - A 20-year-old man was charged with murder in the shooting death of a cab driver less than 24 hours after the incident.
Newport Police said Justin Russell shot David DePhillips as he sat in his cab Tuesday night. A woman was in the cab with DePhillips at the time of the shooting. Surveillance cameras recorded the incident along with the white Saturn the suspect was driving.
Police said a patrol officer pulled over Russell Wednesday afternoon just after 2 p.m. Lt. Chris Fangman said an officer spotted an unspent shell casing in Russell's car.
"These cases need to develop very rapidly when it comes to evidence for us to have a good chance of apprehending a suspect quickly. The longer it goes the harder it is and the detective bureau did a great job of putting everything together," said Lt. Fangman said.
Detectives said Russell gave them a statement but didn't elaborate on what he said.
Police said DePhillips struggled with addiction and was living out of his cab and driving it to make money. Detective Dennis McCarthy said DePhillips used counterfeit money to buy drugs which led to the shooting.
"We have determined throughout our investigation that there was an exchange of counterfeit money for illegal narcotics," Det. McCarthy said. "How much narcotics and what bills were actually counterfeited or how much was collected at the time is still part of an active investigation," Detective McCarthy said.
Russell was being held in the Campbell Co. Jail Wednesday night. The U.S. Secret Service is assisting with the investigation because of the counterfeit money involved.
Surveillance video showed a white, 2002 Saturn pull through the intersection and stop. A man gets out and goes across Saratoga to DePhillips's taxi that is facing the opposite direction. They talk and the man eventually steps back from the driver's side door and fires a shot. The taxi takes off.
“It's not that we have some random, drive-by shooting and if you look at these people and look at the video these people are familiar with each other,” said Newport Police Chief Tom Collins.
David DePhillips, with a female friend in the car with him, drives away from 9th and Saratoga and makes it only a block away before crashing into several cars and finally into a tree.
He was pronounced dead at the hospital. Chief Collins says police think the shooting was a deadly confluence of illegal drugs and phony money. He believes that a drug deal was paid for with counterfeit money and somebody figured out the money wasn't real and that then there was revenge sought against David DePhillips.
Collins says David DePhillips struggled with addiction. He and the woman were basically homeless. Neighbors say the two were living in the taxi and parked it outside 911 Saratoga.
“I seen that car before and I was wondering why he was sleeping in his car a couple of times. It looked fishy to me,” said Jerry Hodgenack, a neighbor.
Police say they have no idea who the shooter is and are asking for help. First, they'd like to find the 2002 white Saturn with a sunroof the shooter was riding in. They'd also like to find the people driving the Ford Escape that came up right at the time of the shooting.
Police say the woman in the car with David DePhillips has been helpful. She described the shooter as a light-skinned African American man in his early 20's. She said he was very thin and about six feet tall. He was wearing a light-colored hoodie and black work boots.
Newport police would like to hear from you if you have any information about the cars or the people involved. You can call them at (859)-292-3622 or call their tipline and 859-261-TIPS. That's 859-261-8477.