Tearful Suspect Says He 'Didn't Pull the Trigger'

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Christopher Michael Womack, the 19-year-old arrested in connection with the drive-by slaying of a youth in Lake Forest last weekend, said Wednesday that he was in the car that night but didn't fire the gun.

"I was there. . . . I am an accessory," Womack said Wednesday in an interview at the Orange County Jail. "But, I didn't pull the trigger."

The Mission Viejo resident also said he regretted going to the Lake Forest home of Bylon Hanna, 17, who was hit by a bullet fired through his bedroom window, and tearfully asked that Hanna's family forgive him.

Womack is one of two men arrested on suspicion of murder. Carl E. Stewart, 19, of Laguna Niguel, is also being held at Orange County Jail. Authorities are searching for other suspects.

Both men are expected to be arraigned this week.

Womack declined to explain in detail what led to the early Sunday shooting or say who else was in the car. But said he and friends had attended a party Friday night and had exchanged heated words there with Hanna and his friends.

Sheriff's officers say the argument was over a girl, but Womack said Wednesday the dispute was about something else. He refused to elaborate.

According to the victim's father, Eugene Hanna, Bylon Hanna was sitting in his bedroom, talking to his brothers and friends when three shots were fired. One of the bullets shattered the bedroom window and struck Hanna in the chest. He died shortly afterward.

Womack said he knew of Bylon Hanna and had seen him around before the shooting but did not know him personally.

Womack spoke in a low but clear voice as he described Sunday's events, but he visibly fought tears when he talked about the victim and his family.

After the shooting, Womack said, he went to a church where "I cried and prayed for forgiveness."

Womack said he has "never felt so empty. I know that another person's life was taken." He added, "There's a lot I want to say. I just want them to know that if I knew what was going to happen that night, I would have not let it happen. And I'm sorry."

Eugene Hanna, however, said he considers the apology meaningless and Womack just "as guilty for coming here and watching what happened."

"How can you be sorry? His sorry don't mean nothing to me (because) it's not going to bring back my son," the father angrily said Wednesday.

The shooting was not the first time Womack has had trouble with the law. In September, he pleaded guilty to two counts of felony auto burglary and was sentenced to 90 days in jail. In November, he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of defrauding an innkeeper and resisting arrest and was put on three years probation. He was released from jail two weeks ago on a work program, he said, and was six days from completing the sentence when the shooting occurred.

Realistically, Womack said, he probably will face a prison sentence for his alleged involvement in the shooting. However, he said, "What I did was wrong, but I didn't kill Bylon. With God's will, that will come out."

Womack added, "If everything works out, I plan on getting my life back together and go to college. But, for right now, I have to take it day by day and face this first."

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