MOUNT VERNON — Justin Hall was only hours away from returning home to Mount Vernon when he was shot in the back Thursday by a stranger while waiting to re-board a Greyhound Bus in Springfield, Mo. His friend, Patrick Beeman, with the help of other passengers, wrestled the suspect to the ground and took away his malfunctioning weapon.
According to a probable cause statement issued by the Springfield Police Department, several witnesses told detectives a man later identified as Mohamad H. Dawod, 25, pulled out a .22-caliber weapon and shot Hall in the back.
According to the statement, Beeman then “turned around to see [Hall] lying on the ground (on his back) with his hands out in a defensive nature as he yelled, ‘Hey, Man.’ Beeman advised Detective McAmis that the suspect was only a few feet away with the gun pointed at [Hall]. The suspect appeared to be attempting to fire more shots, but the gun jammed and the suspect tried to rack the slide.”
Despite previous reports from the Associated Press, according to witness statements, there were no words exchanged directly between Hall and Dawod. In fact, several witnesses told detectives that Dawod kept to himself while on the bus and in the terminal during the short 15-minute stay in Springfield. It was after bus station officials announced it was time to reboard the bus that Dawod was heard asking if this was the right bus. Beeman confirmed to the man that it was and they all lined up to take their seats. Just seconds later, Hall was shot.
Bus passenger Jan Mathias said he heard a bang and looked over his shoulder to see Dawod trying to get the gun to fire a second time. Mathias described the suspect as having a blank look on his face, that he was cool and calm, like he knew what he was doing.
Witnesses that assisted Beeman in taking Dawod to the ground and securing his weapon told detectives that the suspect wanted to be let go and that “I’m not gonna shoot nobody no more.”
Hall was taken to a nearby hospital where he died as the result of the bullet which ricocheted off of his shoulder and into his heart.
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Dawod has been charged with one count of first-degree murder and one count of armed criminal action.
According to court documents requesting Dawod be incarcerated with no bond, the Green County Prosecutor stated there is currently no known motive for the “unprovoked attack. If the civilian bystanders had not intervened, it appears there would have been other victims.”
Hall’s brother, Jamie, was devastated when he heard the news and has yet to come to grips with the loss of his brother and best friend, but he has come to accept that his brother was a hero.
“We don’t know why he shot Justin,” Jamie told the News. “But we do know from the police report that he was going to shoot other people. For some reason, after he fired at Justin, the gun jammed, saving other lives.”
Jamie described his brother as a kind and thoughtful man who took this trip with Beeman because he needed an adventure and an opportunity to find himself.
“He always said, ‘I have gypsy in my blood and traveling in my bones,’” Jamie said. “After this journey, he was excited to come home and be with his family.”
“It’s all about the experiences — it truly makes you feel alive,” said Sarah Rutland, Jamie’s fiancee. “He just needed to find his voice again. He did that and he found the faith in humanity that he was missing.”
Justin spoke with his brother and family throughout his most recent trip. With every conversation or text message, Jamie said he could hear that the adventure was a good one for Justin’s heart and soul.
“You just have to be smart when you travel,” Jamie said. “Make good decisions, have a good head on your shoulders with no bad intentions. We did that. Justin did that. No one would have expected that a stranger would shoot him for no reason.”
This wasn’t the first trip out west for Justin; the two brothers spent a month traveling the country together in 2008 — many miles of it on foot.
“We took the bus, we rented a truck and we hiked from Portland to McMinville, Ore. We hiked all the way to the ocean and took pictures all along the way,” Jamie said.
Jamie has many fond memories of the journey he shared with his brother, not only from the trip, but from the life and experiences they shared. But it is his brother’s memory and his strength of character that will push Jamie to find good in his brother’s death. He plans to push for better security at bus stations, more closely resembling airport security, so that stations are required to have metal detectors that could have picked up the fact that Dawod was carrying a gun.
“He was awesome,” Jamie said. “Maybe this is where he finds his voice in protecting other people.”
Calling hours for Justin are tonight from 6 to 8 p.m. at Dilley-Lasater Funeral Home. The family will have a private service.