OLATHE, Kan. -- Friday marked an emotional day in court for family and friends of a man killed by a pool cue, as the man charged with murder in the case appeared in court.
Prosecutors said Tyler Knudsen, 23, was an innocent bystander in the wrong place, at the wrong time when a bar fight broke out at the Boxcar Bar & Grill in Edgerton, Kan., last December.
Gregory Cooper, 32, is now charged with second-degree murder and attempted aggravated battery. He had his preliminary hearing Friday afternoon.
Knudsen’s family said seeing Cooper in court was “heart wrenching,” and they said the only way they really got through it was with the love and support of other family members and friends.
More than two-dozen of them showed up to court wearing t-shirts in honor of Knudsen with the words on the back, “You should be here,” ringing truer than ever.
“It shouldn`t have happened,” said Knudsen’s friend, Jennifer Brewer. “We shouldn`t be here. You know, sitting here listening to the statements, having to sit here and grieve. Tyler should be here right now with us.”
Knudsen’s spirit was felt by all his loved ones, especially his brother, Dustin Campbell.
“Everything reminds me of Ty,” Campbell said. “There`s not a thing that doesn’t. Not a blade of grass that doesn`t make me think about my brother.”
Similar raw emotions ran high in the courtroom, as Cooper, whose face the judge said FOX 4 was not allowed to film, took a seat.
Several witnesses then took the stand to relive the night of Dec. 19, 2015, at an Edgerton bar where prosecutors said things escalated between Cooper and a 23-year-old man named David Given.
Given took the stand for a line of questioning from both prosecutors and the defense as he described the events of that night from his perspective.
Given said he was playing pool with Cooper, who flipped the bill of his hat twice. This upset Given, who in response pushed Cooper.
“Mr. Cooper had this pool stick in his hand while all this was going on by the pool tables, right?” asked Cooper’s court-appointed defense attorney, Kelly Driscoll.
“Yes, I had one in my hand too,” Given said, “but I dropped it because you don`t fight with a f***ing pool stick.”
Their fight played out on surveillance video, which was played in court. Given can be seen and heard yelling obscenities toward Cooper, challenging him to a fight and suggesting they “take it outside.”
“You’re not walking up there nice and sweet to Mr. Cooper, correct?” asked Driscoll.
“Correct,” Given responded.
“Because again, you want to get in a fight and you want to beat his ass?” Driscoll asked.
“I wanted to take that pool stick out of his hand so I didn’t get hit with it,” Given said.
Prosecutors said the video shows Cooper first swing the pool stick at Given and miss. He then walks forward and swings again, but this time hits Knudsen, who was standing nearby with his back turned, in the neck.
Knudsen`s friend, Jared Sprague, said Knudsen took a few steps, stumbled and then fell into his arms.
“He was unconscious on the ground,” Sprague said of Knudsen after the blow. “He was breathing fine for 10 seconds and then he started having trouble breathing and then went into a seizure.”
Sprague held onto Knudsen for his last breath.
“His head was still in my hands,” Sprague said, as he dropped his head and put his hand over his eyes.
A forensic pathologist who performed Knudsen’s autopsy took the stand to say he determined Knudsen died of blunt force injury to his head and neck.
After the blow, witnesses said the crowd bum rushed Cooper, threw him against the wall, and Given began beating him up to the point of unconsciousness.
A bartender who took the stand said at one point, Cooper got emotional and apologized for what he did.
Driscoll and Cooper’s family declined to comment on Friday’s court proceedings, while Knudsen`s family said only one thing would mean justice for Tyler.
“For [Cooper] to stay locked up,” Campbell said. “I want him to stay locked up.”
Cooper’s next court appearance will be on April 14 at 9 a.m. Both sides will argue for or against probable cause and it will be decided whether Cooper is entitled to make a case for self-defense.