SAN DIEGO — A man shot and killed a decorated Navy pilot outside a comedy club at Horton Plaza in a “senseless execution,” a prosecutor alleged Wednesday, while a defense attorney claimed the gunman was in fact his client’s brother and that multiple witnesses misidentified the shooter.
Arrow Morris, 41, is charged with the June 10, 2017, murder of 43-year- old James Celani and the attempted murder of Celani’s cousin, who was grazed in the leg.
Celani was struck in the head, neck and chest, and died later that day at a hospital.
Morris, his brother, his girlfriend and two others attended the Mad House Comedy Club on the night of the shooting, but left the club just before midnight, with Morris extremely angry and trying to wrest his girlfriend’s purse from her, possibly to get her car keys, according to the prosecution.
Deputy District Attorney Amy Maund said that after a violent confrontation with his girlfriend, Morris and his brother walked away from the club and encountered Celani and his cousin, who were walking past them in the opposite direction.
Maund told jurors that either Celani or his cousin said “What’s up?” to the Morris brothers as they walked past, to which Morris replied “Don’t (expletive) talk to me,” then allegedly began firing.
“It could have been anyone,” Maund said, telling jurors that Celani and his cousin were simply “in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Morris’ attorney, Stewart Dadmun, said witnesses mistook his client for his brother, or told police they believed Morris was the shooter, despite only hearing the gunshots and not seeing the actual shooting itself.
Dadmun said Celani’s cousin gave police an incorrect description of the shooter that night, providing a description that mixed up the features and clothing of Morris and his brother.
When Morris was arrested, multiple guns were seized by investigators, but the murder weapon, shown through ballistics to be a revolver, belonged to Morris’ brother, according to Dadmum. He said one of the guns recovered by police, a semi-automatic pistol, belonged to his client, but claimed that Morris left the pistol inside his girlfriend’s vehicle on the night of the shooting.
The whereabouts of Morris’ brother was unclear.
According to Dadmun, Morris had “no idea” his sibling was going to begin shooting, while Maund maintained that the altercation with his girlfriend left Morris enraged and prone to violence.
“The defendant was angry, the defendant had a gun and he wasn’t backing down,” Maund said.
Morris, who was arrested two days after the shooting, faces more than 80 years in prison if convicted of all counts.