The trial of a man who allegedly killed a man during an altercation last August at a northwest Fort Wayne restaurant is officially underway as testimony began Monday afternoon in Allen Superior Court.
Andrew M. Cassaday, 29, of the 3200 block of Chancellor Drive, is on trial this week for allegedly murdering Jeffrey M. Lute, 28, shortly after 9:30 p.m. Aug. 14 at Texas Roadhouse, 710 W. Washington Center Road. He also is charged with being a felon carrying a handgun with a prior felony conviction within the last 15 years.
According to witness testimony, Lute, the 23rd homicide of 2016 in Allen County, was accosted by a group of 10 to 12 people as he exited the restaurant with several friends. Lute pulled out a gun during the exchange with Philip Elkins and shot Elkins in the leg as witnesses said Lute looked to be threatened. It was at that point, Cassaday allegedly took a gun from his car, walked back to where the shooting took place, but caught Lute coming around the other side of the building and shot him. The shot hit Lute in the neck and severed his spine, according to prosecutors, who said Lute likely died before he fell to the ground.
Lute's father, Larry, testified Monday that he and his son rode motorcycles with a group for about four years, when during the summer of 2015 the group became a formal club, the Steel Horse Rebels. Elkins was the president, while Jeffrey Lute was the vice president. By late 2015, Lute said he and his son left the motorcycle club.
"Did the tension continue?" Allen County Deputy Prosecutor Thomas Chaille asked. "Severely. Yes," Lute answered.
Cassaday's former girlfriend testified she and Cassaday were in an on-again, off-again relationship since they met nine years ago. She testified they were preparing dinner on Aug. 14, when Cassaday received a phone call to meet at the club — something she said was not out of the ordinary. She said she voluntarily agreed to go with him, recognizing some of the people in the room, including Elkins, while other people belonged to the Sons of Ares motorcycle club. She said Elkins and others were gathered around a cellphone — only to find out later they were looking at a Snapchat video of Lute eating dinner with friends at Texas Roadhouse. She testified Cassaday never informed her where they were going or why.
She said she sat in the passenger seat of Cassaday's Chevrolet Impala parked between the entrance and the southwest corner of the restaurant when Lute and his friends exited and began heading to their cars. About a dozen people began to crowd around Lute, when one member began yelling at Lute. Elkins became involved, and she said she saw Lute pull out a weapon. While she didn't hear the gunshot, she did see Lute begin to run away — to the back of the restaurant.
She said Cassaday came to the driver's side of his car and said, "Give me my gun," which she did. Cassaday was walking back where Elkins was lying, when she — and Cassaday — caught Lute rounding the northwest corner of the restaurant. She said Lute still held his gun and his cellphone, which recorded part of that night's series of events, when Cassady fired the fatal shot.
She said Cassaday was driving Elkins to the emergency room when both told her to tell the police the gun was hers, which she did. On Monday afternoon, she admitted she didn't know if the gun was registered or to whom.