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2019 Deep Ellum attack: Jury finds Austin Shuffield guilty of assault, obstruction

Shuffield was arrested after a video surfaced of him armed with a gun and punching L'Dajohnique Lee on March 21, 2019, in a Deep Ellum parking lot.

DALLAS — On Monday, a jury returned with a guilty verdict in Austin Shuffield's assault trial, and he was sentenced to 5 1/2 years of probation and four days in jail.

The jury found Shuffield not guilty of aggravated assault, instead convicting him of simple assault in the 2019 attack in Deep Ellum where he was seen punching L'Dajohnique Lee on March 21 in a parking lot. 

The jury also found Shuffield guilty of obstruction.

A judge sentenced Shuffield to prison in the case but suspended the sentence and gave him probation instead. The judge also ordered Shuffield to serve four days in jail as part of his punishment.

Shuffield was initially charged with a misdemeanor assault but the charge was upgraded after protests and pushback from community activists.

But Shuffield's attorney has said the gun seen in his hand was never used during the altercation.

Shuffield was expected to testify, but he stood before the jury Thursday and told them he no longer was testifying in the case. 

During her testimony which spanned several hours on Thursday, Lee began to cry as the video of the incident was played in court. She said she still suffers from hearing loss after being struck in the head by Shuffield. 

"You don’t like to watch this video, right," the prosecutor asked. "No," Lee answered, crying.

Lee testified she believed Shuffield was going to beat her to death. 

Watch Lee's full testimony here:

His defense in 2019 claimed there was an audio recording between the lead detective and prosecutor in which they said there wasn't enough evidence to charge Shuffield with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

"Both the trial bureau chief and the lead detective agree in this recorded conversation that those elements weren't there,” Rebekah Perlstein, Shuffield’s defense attorney, told WFAA in 2019.

As a result, Shuffield's attorneys filed a motion to disqualify the Dallas County District Attorney's Office over alleged bias, and a judge sided with Shuffield, dismissing Dallas County prosecutors from the case. A special prosecutor was assigned to the case in their place.

Thursday, Perlstein worked to make Lee seem confused or unreliable, questioning why injuries weren’t reported till a day later and why she called her brother instead of 911 that night.

“I was scared," Lee said. "I was terrified. Nobody was outside with me. Nobody. My friend left me. Who else could I call? He’s already on the phone with the police.”

There was a brief dispute in court between the defense and prosecutors on whether to include that Shuffield had been in the Marine Corps Reserves. Prosecutors also shared his interview with police for the first time where he says he went too far in hitting Lee and said it was out of instinct.

“Getting hit, my immediate response was to respond with use of force," Shuffield said in his recorded interview. "Looking back now, self-defense was probably one hit would’ve been fine.”

The state rested its case just before 4 PM Thursday after testimony from a police detective.

Lee, 24 at the time of the incident, shared her side of the story with WFAA in 2019. She said she had been out in Deep Ellum with friends and that she made a simple mistake.

"I knew I was on a one-way street, but I was stopping literally at the corner to let my friend out," she said.

After she moved her vehicle into the lot, she said a man approached her car in an attempt to get a picture of her license plate, which is when she said she told him "to get back or else she would mace him," an arrest warrant said.

A witness recorded the entire event via phone and at one point it shows the man, identified as Shuffield, pull out a gun during the confrontation. 

In the video, he never points it at Lee, however. 

"I got scared," she said. "I was like, 'You have a gun?' The first thing I thought to do was call the police."

Authorities wrote that Lee said she then went to call 911, which is when Shuffield can be seen in the video slapping a phone out of her hand and kicking it away from her. 

She told police she feared for her life and went to slap Shuffield in an attempt to push him away. At this point, Shuffield can be seen punching Lee as many as five times in the video, pushing her into a metal pole. 

"He charged at me, and he just kept hitting me, and I was like, 'OK, OK, OK'," Lee said. 

"Watching that video literally makes me cry," she said. "All I could do was try and protect myself. He literally sat there and beat me like a man." 

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