This article was originally published on GoErie.com by Madeleine O’Neill on Jan 24, 2018
Personal belongings and two guns found in or near a crashed SUV provided investigators with early clues after a fatal shooting at a July 2015 outdoor party, an Erie police detective testified Tuesday.
Fingerprints also linked two defendants who are on trial in the shooting with the vehicle, which had gunshot residue on its inner lining, according to testimony.
Four men — Keshawn C. McLaurin and Jahaun M. Jones, both 20; Demond D. Mitchell, 21; and Stephen T. Russell, 22 — are on trial this week on charges that they fired or conspired to fire shots from the SUV, killing 16-year-old Shakur Franklin and wounding four others during the party on July 24, 2015.
Detectives recovered one .38-caliber revolver next to the SUV, which landed on the driver’s side after it crashed into a utility pole near the party at West 29th and Summit Streets. Another .38-caliber revolver was found near the vehicle’s front passenger seat, Detective Sgt. Ken Kensill testified.
Each revolver held five spent shell casings when they were recovered, according to information presented in court. A now-retired Pennsylvania State Police firearms expert testified that a bullet recovered from Franklin’s body was consistent with the .38-caliber class, although the bullet was so mutilated he could not say whether it was fired from either .38-caliber revolver.
Police recovered a vehicle registration card near the crashed SUV that identified McLaurin as the owner, according to testimony. A sticker that read “Hello, My Name is Keshawn,” was also among the personal items recovered from the vehicle, Detective Mark Sennett testified.
Under questioning from First Assistant District Attorney Elizabeth Hirz, Kensill said he lifted a number of fingerprints from the SUV, and recovered a Central Career & Technical School sweatshirt with the name “Mitchell” on the front.
Finger and palm prints from the vehicle matched McLaurin and Jones, testified Pennsylvania State Police Cpl. Richard Pottorf, who is now retired. And lining from inside the vehicle tested positive for gunshot residue, according to trial testimony.
Three of the defendants are arguing that they were not present at the shooting. Mitchell’s lawyer, John Carlson, told jurors during his opening statement Monday that the sweatshirt did not belong to his client, but to another person with the last name Mitchell. Carlson said that person’s football number appeared on the sweatshirt.
Carlson is arguing that an eyewitness, who has yet to testify, either lied when she identified Mitchell or confused Mitchell with another person, whose fingerprints were located inside the SUV, according to Pottorf’s testimony.
The lawyers for Jones and Russell have also claimed that their clients were not present or were misidentified by witnesses.
Hirz, along with Erie County District Attorney Jack Daneri, is expected to present evidence from eyewitnesses who identified the four defendants to police as having been in the SUV on the night of the shooting.
Daneri told jurors Monday that one witness will describe hearing an occupant of the car say that they planned to “do a drive-by” at the party, because “there’s people we don’t like there.”
One of the gunshot victims, Jaylin Lee, testified Tuesday that he saw a person holding a gun outside the party who told him “no opps tonight,” in reference to “enemies.” While he was waiting to leave the party, Lee testified, he heard shots and was struck in the right side.
“I heard tire screeches as shots rang,” he said. He said he initially thought someone drove away quickly when they heard shots, but told police days later that the shooting had to have come from a car.
After the shots, Lee testified, he dropped to the ground and saw Franklin’s body lying in the street.
Also killed that night was 16-year-old Elijah Jackson, who died in a shooting that coincided with the shooting of Franklin. The four defendants are not charged in Jackson’s death. Another man, 23-year-old Darion A. Eady, was convicted in February of third-degree murder in Jackson’s death and is serving 23 years and 10 months to 47 years and eight months in state prison.
The four defendants accused in Franklin’s death face charges including homicide, conspiracy, aggravated assault and reckless endangerment.
They remain in the Erie County Prison without bond. Testimony will continue Wednesday before Erie County Judge William R. Cunningham.