Chad Brewer

Camden County Sheriff's Office photo

CAMDEN COUNTY, Mo. — After nearly two months of investigation, a man has been charged with murder for the shooting at Lake of the Ozarks waterfront bar Lazy Gators.

Chad Brewer was charged with First Degree Murder on Wednesday, July 28, for the May 29 shooting death of Vonza Watson. Brewer, 29, of Jefferson City has been held on drug possession charges for 5.5 grams of cocaine since the shooting.

According to the probable cause statement, Brewer was identified on security cameras as wearing a pink t-shirt and jeans. Authorities say his brother, John Brewer, confirmed this in an interview with police. John Brewer also reportedly confirmed a portion of video of he and Chad leaving together immediately after the shooting. 

During the course of the investigation, police obtained a video of the fight and subsequent shooting, from a bar patron. According to a press release from the Camden County Prosecutor's Office, the fight included multiple individuals and Camden County Prosecutor Caleb Cunningham stated during a Wednesday press briefing that additional individuals are being investigated but he could not comment on that ongoing investigation. Cunningham advised anyone else who was involved: “Just rest assured that if you were part of this, you need to go to your nearest police department and turn yourself in.”

Authorities say video depicts a man in a pink t-shirt and jeans, previously identified as Brewer, holding a firearm toward Watson’s right side. Watson was bent over a rock wall of the bar, face down and not fighting back as he was struck by other individuals, authorities say. In the video, a single muzzle flash could be seen along with the sound of a pop consistent with a gunshot, according to the probable cause document. Brewer was then reportedly pushed away by other combatants and individuals intervening in the fight. The fight and the video end quickly after the shooting. 

Authorities say the autopsy indicated that the bullet trajectory is consistent with the angle and placement between Brewer and Watson. 

When deputies responded to the scene, Brewer was identified as a potential suspect and taken into custody. After a pat-down was conducted officers say they found a plastic bag and a rock-like substance that later tested positive for cocaine in a NARTEC field test. 

While incarcerated, authorities say Brewer made a phone call and told the call recipient not to post pictures of him wearing the pink shirt. His clothes were seized and presumed blood was located on the pants and shoes he was wearing at the time of his arrest. 

According to the probable cause statement, Brewer and Vonza had a “beef” that started when Brewer was previously in prison. In an interview with officers, Brewer reportedly said that he and Vonza used to be friends but weren’t any longer, also stating that he thought Vonza had been shot intentionally. 

In the press briefing, Cunningham praised the efforts of his and other agencies including the Camden County Sheriff’s Office, Missouri State Highway Patrol, the ATF and the Jefferson City Police Department. 

“These men and women dug through 40 yards of trash, dove the Lake of the Ozarks, executed multiple search warrants and criss-crossed the state interviewing witnesses. No effort was too great,” Cunningham said. 

Punishments for first degree murder can range from life without parole to the death penalty, which is an option Cunningham says Camden County is considering.  

“We are talking with other agencies including the attorney generals office and the family. This is a very heavy decision to use the ultimate tool in our justice system against someone. And we are still deliberating that,” Cunningham said.