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Las Vegas Sun
Friday, Nov. 30, 2001 | 9:06 a.m.
Bleeding heavily from a gunshot wound and lying near his dying mother, Sir Lawrence Armstrong, 16, looked to his father for answers.
“Why?” the teenager asked. “Why did you shoot so many people?
“‘Because you disrespected me,'” the boy quoted his father, Richard Armstrong.
Then, as his father walked down the steps leading away from the bloody apartment, Armstrong testified his father made one final comment.
“I told her not to mess with me.”
Sir Lawrence Armstrong was one of three Armstrong children who took the stand Thursday during their father’s preliminary hearing. One by one, the teenagers stoically described how their father came to their apartment on March 25, shot two of them and then gunned down their mother and her new boyfriend.
Sir Lawrence was shot in the buttocks and still limps because the bullet exited from one of his hips. Ariel Dominique Armstrong, 17, bears a scar on her cheek where a bullet struck her.
Their mother, Bonita Armstrong, 43, died of two gunshot wounds in her back. Her boyfriend, Andre Marcus, 30, died as the result of gunshot wounds in the back and chest.
Sir Lawrence, Dominique and Malcolm, 14, all testified their parents separated in January. They moved with their mother to an apartment on Sahara Avenue.
Their father, they said, began taking Prozac and told them he had attempted to commit suicide in the weeks after the separation.
Their mother began dating Marcus in April and their father apparently learned of it shortly before the shootings.
Dominique testified that four days before the shooting their father jumped out from behind a trash can when the family was preparing to get into a car, headed for church.
She said her father told her mother he had been following her and had seen her with Marcus.
“He asked her why she did that to him,” Dominique said. “She said she didn’t have time for (a discussion), and we left.”
The following Thursday, the children testified their father came to their apartment after being told over the phone not to come over.
Dominique and Sir Lawrence were shot while trying to keep their father out of the apartment, and their mother was shoved to the ground and shot as she tried to call 911.
“He was standing right on top of her, pointing the gun at her back,” Dominique said. “She was screaming, ‘Don’t kill me.’ ”
Dominique said she heard at least one gunshot as she ran toward a neighbor’s home.
Sir Lawrence said that after shooting his mother twice, his father began screaming at him to tell him where Marcus was, using a racial epithet to describe him.
Marcus, who was in the bathroom when the shooting began, was found in a rear bedroom closet; two mirrored closet doors had been torn off and were on the bed.
After complaining to Sir Lawrence about being disrespected, Richard Armstrong went home and called 911. He was arrested shortly thereafter.
Thursday’s preliminary hearing was held over the objections of defense attorney John Momot.
Momot told Las Vegas Justice of the Peace James Bixler he has concerns about the competency of his client. Although he didn’t go into detail for fear of violating attorney-client privilege, Momot said he doesn’t believe his client can help in his own defense, in part because he is taking anti-depressants.
Bixler said the issue should be taken up in District Court.
Richard Armstrong will be arraigned next week by District Judge Jeffrey Sobel on two counts of murder, two counts of attempted murder and one count each of burglary and battery. All of the crimes allegedly took place with use of a deadly weapon, which can double any sentence if convicted.
The battery charge stems from Malcolm’s allegation his father struck him with the gun when he asked why he shot his mother.
Two occupants of the apartment escaped harm — the Armstrong’s youngest son, Joel, 12, who hid under a bed, and Dominique’s 11-month-old son, Trevon.
A committee of prosecutors that decides when to seek the death penalty has yet to review the case, said Chief Deputy District Attorney David Roger.