ST. JOSEPH — Epiphany Bates testified Thursday that she saw Eric Holbrook with a gun right before her boyfriend, Arsenio Jordan, dropped to the ground and died.

Bates, testifying in Berrien County Trial Court Judge Gordon Hosbein’s courtroom, said Holbrook, 21, was close enough to touch Jordan when he put the gun to his head and shot him. Jordan, 29, died at the scene of the July 31 shooting on Superior Street in Benton Harbor.

Eric Holbrook, 21, and his brother Dennis Holbrook, 23, are charged with murder in the case and preliminary hearings got underway for them Thursday. Their mother, Felicia Lee, 42, is also charged with murder in the same case and a preliminary hearing for her will be at a later date.

Witnesses called Thursday by Berrien Assistant Prosecutor Trevor Maveal said an argument between some women over money escalated into a gunfight, and at least 30 to 40 shots were fired. 

Dennis Holbrook was shot in the leg during the incident, which happened in front of a house at 834 Superior Street. Bates told the court she was there with Jordan visiting with his family and friends on the porch when the Holbrook brothers walked past on the other side of the street. They came back a short time later with some females, she said, and the women confronted someone in Jordan’s group about money owed to Felicia Lee. 

Bates testified that before Jordan was fatally shot, she heard Dennis Holbrook say, “I don’t fight. I shoot,” and she heard Eric Holbrook say “Chill out.” She said she saw Jordan with a gun in his hand as he tried to take cover, but she never saw him fire the gun.

Eric Holbrook is being defended by attorneys Kaitlin Locke and Paul Jancha Jr., and Dennis Holbrook is being defended by attorney Jason Engram. 

In cross examination, Locke asked Bates whether she recalls telling the police that she saw Eric helping Dennis up after Dennis had been shot. Bates replied “No.”

Dennis Holbrook was taken to Lakeland Medical Center, St. Joseph, where he was questioned the next day by Berrien County Sheriff’s Detective Lt. Gregory Sanders. Holbrook told Sanders he was confronted by “a skinny guy,” and a minute later was shot. He said after he was shot, someone handed him a gun and he shot back, but he didn’t think he had hit anyone. 

“He told me this whole thing started because his mother was going to hit one of the girls with a big log. He thought the person was shooting at her and hit him, instead,” Sanders testified. 

Testimony was expected to continue today, after which Hosbein will decide whether there is enough evidence for the case to move forward to trial.

The Holbrook brothers both are being held in the Berrien County jail without bond.

Contact: jswidwa@TheHP.com, 932-0359, Twitter: @HPSwidwa