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A courthouse moment: ‘Nothing out of the ordinary’

At the witness stand, Andrea Arnold hesitated as she figured out which hand to place on the Bible and which to raise. Wearing a cheetah print blouse and large, gold hoop earrings, she grimaced in a way that conveyed both frustration and pain. 

Arnold was in court to testify about the evening she spent with her longtime friend Reginald Johnson on July 30, 2018. 

“I call him Crabs,” Arnold said. “That’s what they call him. I’m not used to Reggie, Reginald. I’ve known him since I was 8 years old.”

They spent time together every week, but that would be their last. The next morning, Johnson was found shot dead on the porch of his grandma’s home. Arnold said she was confused that he died after such a normal day. 

“He come, we chill, we smoke. We talked, laughed, watch MTV Wild and Up,” she said. 

“Did Reggie have some drinks?” prosecutor Alyson Grine asked. 

“That’s what he do. He likes to drink. He drinks Corona,” Arnold replied.

Arnold’s face turned red, and she tilted her head toward her shoulder. With each sentence she spoke, her voice became more distorted as if there was a growing lump in her throat. 

“Can I ask you to speak louder?” Judge James Hardin asked Arnold.

Arnold raised her volume a notch as she recounted driving “Crabs” to Waffle House and then to the Joy Mart on North Roxboro Street on the way back to his grandma’s house. Grine, the prosecutor, asked if this was ordinary. Arnold gave a long “mhmmm,” nodding her head.

“This is something we did all of the time,” she said. “The same mood, he was just drunk. He was laughing, joking. Nothing out of the ordinary happening.”

Grine stood up and carried a Durham map over to Arnold. It had the Waffle House, the Joy Mart, Arnold’s home, and the crime scene. Grine asked if Arnold could identify her house. 

“It’s right there where it says Andrea Arnold home,” she said, her exasperated tone noting the obviousness of the question. 

Then, Grine asked Arnold to trace her route back to Johnson’s grandma’s house. The first time Arnold testified, she hadn’t mentioned that Johnson went into the Joy Mart on the way back. 

“It was a shock to me that he was gone, so I wasn’t really thinking,” she said.

Then she looked down, in a contemplative way. She swayed back and forth and recalled how Johnson had spoken with a man at the Joy Mart.

“Everywhere we go, Crabs knew somebody,” she said. 

She dropped him off at the house. He got out of the car and tripped a bit. “‘I’m good, I’m alright’,” Arnold remembered him saying. Then she drove off.

Arnold breathed slowly and closed her eyes. 

“(His death) was hurtful and unexpected,” she said. 

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