A domestic court dispute over child support directly preceded the Dec. 12 attack that left a man struck twice by gunfire in downtown Roanoke during the early afternoon, within eyeshot of the police station.
That backstory came during a circuit court hearing Tuesday at which the man charged in the shooting, Michael Zigmond Armstead, entered Alford pleas to four felonies: attempted murder, malicious wounding and two counts of using a firearm to commit a felony.
By taking Alford pleas to each of the charges, Armstead, 26, of Lynchburg, maintains his innocence but acknowledges that there is enough evidence against him to result in a conviction.
Armstead’s pleas came about two weeks before he was slated to take his case to a jury trial. He is now due to be sentenced by a judge later this summer. The mandatory minimums on Armstead’s gun charges alone call for a term of eight years.
Botetourt County Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Chad Simmons, who is handling the case as a special prosecutor, presented a summary of the prosecution’s evidence.
Simmons said that immediately before the shooting, Armstead and his wife, Ashly Gordon, were in Roanoke Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court on a child support complaint she had brought against Marcus Perdue. Perdue came to court with his brother, John Perdue, and a woman named Mary Lee Clark.
“Ironically, the hearing went in her [Gordon’s] favor,” Simmons said, and he noted that at that time, the two parties showed no signs of animosity. “There were no issues, nothing out of the normal.”
Once the hearing was concluded, both sides left the courthouse, and nearby security cameras recorded the Perdues and Clark making their way north on Third Street. When they reached Campbell Avenue, Simmons said, they passed out of camera range. It was at that moment that a black male got out of a nearby Chevrolet Avalanche and started shooting at the trio, he said.
John Perdue was hit in the arm and the thigh but survived.
“Multiple witnesses identified the defendant as the shooter,” Simmons said. He said the man ran west on Campbell — directly toward the Roanoke Police Department, the jail and the sheriff’s office — and tossed a gun beside a parking structure about halfway down the block.
Armstead was taken into custody almost immediately after the shooting, and police recovered a 9mm Luger handgun near the garage. The pistol forensically matched five shell casings found at the site of the shooting, Simmons said.
Because the Perdues and Clark had to go through metal detectors to get into court, and because they were videotaped outside the courthouse almost entirely up until the shooting, Simmons argued, they could not have armed themselves before they were shot at.
But defense attorney Joseph Sanzone said the shooting marked the culmination of “a long history of threats of violence — and violence — against my client and my client’s family.”
Sanzone said Armstead’s pleas offered his client the best opportunity to have a judge evaluate his side of the story.
“We’ll put on evidence of that at sentencing,” Sanzone said. “There’s a lot of text messages, a lot of other evidence.
“My client was hopeful the videos would show exactly what happened. They didn’t.”
Armstead’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for Aug. 26. He has been held without bond in the Roanoke City Jail since his arrest in December.