A 23-year-old man accused of opening fire on a crowded bar in downtown Tuscaloosa early Saturday morning, before being shot himself, spent three years in jail as the lead suspect in a 2016 murder before he was released for lack of evidence.

The suspect, Joshua Marquese Coston, was arrested in October 2016 after a robbery turned deadly.

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In that case, witnesses said three men wearing hoodies tried to rob 26-year-old Terry Jason Dawson at his home in Tuscaloosa's Landmark Apartments off Old Montgomery Highway.

Something went wrong, and one of the would-be robbers fired several shots from a .40 caliber handgun through Dawson's door, hitting him in the head and neck. Dawson was pronounced dead at the scene, and homicide investigators immediately set about identifying his killers.

One of the suspects, Freddie Laron Smith, was interviewed after he allegedly sent a text bragging about the killing.

Smith told police that Coston approached him and a third man, Delvin Phillips, and asked if they wanted to help him steal cash and drugs from Dawson at his apartment.

Phillips and Smith both told police that Coston planned the robbery, and that it was Coston who pulled the trigger when Dawson was killed.

Coston was arrested and charged with capital murder, then held without bond in the Tuscaloosa County Jail from October 2016 until December 2019, when the district attorney's office decided they did not have enough physical evidence to connect him to the killing.

"For the state to proceed to trial, there must be corroborating evidence of an accomplice's testimony," prosecutors wrote. "A conviction of a felony cannot be had on the testimony of an accomplice unless corroborated by other evidence tending to connect the defendant with the commission of the offense."

The DA's office determined there was "ample accomplice testimony to suggest" that Colson was involved in Dawson's murder, but that "the State found insufficient corroborating evidence" for the case to go to trial.

After more than three years in jail without bond, Coston was released.

Now investigators believe he was one of two men who opened fire on Roxy's bar and nightclub early Saturday morning a shooting that left four victims injured before someone reportedly returned fire, injuring Coston.

The commander of the Tuscaloosa Violent Crimes Unit said Saturday that Coston is being treated for his injuries at an undisclosed medical facility, and if and when he recovers he will be charged with 11 felonies, including four counts of attempted murder.

Stay connected to the Tuscaloosa Thread for more developments in this case as they become available.

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