Security was amped up in the Faulkner County Courthouse on Thursday, where a jury returned a verdict of guilty to a charge of first-degree murder in the case against Antwan Fowler, a 28-year-old Conway man accused in the 2011 shooting death of Stevie Thomas.


The incident occurred after midnight on June 20, 2011 in the 1100 block of Ingram Street.


Investigators said Thomas, 28, and Fowler were involved in a shoot out that resulted in both men being hit several times.


While investigating the shooting, officers were called to an automobile accident at Locust and Caldwell streets, where they discovered that the passenger in the vehicle was Stevie Thomas. The driver of the vehicle was his brother, Kenneth Thomas, 29, who had come to take him to the hospital.


Stevie Thomas was taken to Conway Regional Medical Center where he later died.


Fowler was transported to Baptist Medical Center, where he was treated for a gunshot wound to the head and remained in a coma for several weeks.


Those entering the courthouse on Thursday afternoon were subjected to rigorous searches after officials confirmed that two weapons were recovered, including a concealed handgun and a knife that had been hidden in a courthouse closet.


Law enforcement officers with the Faulkner County Sheriff’s Office and the Conway Police Department lined the premises of the courtroom, while others stood guard just outside of the courthouse.


The jury began deliberating around 4 p.m. on Wednesday, and the guilty verdict was delivered just before noon Thursday.

Closing arguments began around 1:15 p.m. Thursday and continued through the afternoon.

State's witnesses included Thomas' mother, wife and Ofc. Gordon Ball, a crime analyst with CPD.

Thomas' wife described him as a "caring... loving ... and generous" man and father to their four children.

Ball testified that numerous tattoos covering Fowler's body indicated an affiliation with the Crip gang.

The defense called Fowler to the stand, where he proclaimed his innocence to Thomas' family and friends. Fowler was cut short by Judge David Reynolds after prosecutors called remarks directed at the family "inappropriate."

Fowler also said he had not been involved in any gang activity since he left south central Los Angeles years ago, and has been "mentally" disassociated from the gang since he was 24 years old.

When asked by a prosecutor who the "mystery third shooter" was on the night of the incident, Fowler told the prosecutor, "I don't know. It could have been you."

Fowler was sentenced to 75 years in prison for the murder charge, and 18 years for a charge of felon in possession of a firearm.