By Peter H. Milliken
A co-defendant in the shooting that killed one person and wounded 11 others at a house party near Youngstown State University testified that Columbus Jones and Jamelle Jackson fired guns outside the house.
Braylon Rogers, 21, who pleaded guilty to illegal gun possession and turned state’s evidence, testified that Jones fired first. “After he stops shooting, Jamelle starts shooting,” Rogers said Friday.
Jackson, 20, of West Boston Avenue, is on trial before a nine-woman, three-man jury for the murder of Jamail Johnson, a 25-year-old YSU senior, and for 11 counts of felonious assault in the Feb. 6, 2011, shooting.
Because of the influence pretrial publicity might have had on potential jurors living in Mahoning County, Judge John M. Durkin of common pleas court relocated Jackson’s trial to Akron, where a jury of Summit County residents was selected.
Columbus Jones, 24, of Cambridge Avenue, was tried and convicted of murder and 11 counts of felonious assault by a jury in Youngstown and sentenced in August to 92 years in prison.
Rogers, formerly of East Lucius Avenue, was a YSU student when the barrage of bullets was fired into the Indiana Avenue house party, and now lives out of state. Prosecutors have recommended probation for Rogers in exchange for his testimony.
As he had during the Columbus Jones trial, Rogers testified that he and his co-defendants went to the house party about 3 a.m., after having been at a Liberty nightclub earlier that evening.
Rogers said a fistfight started after he quarreled with an intoxicated woman who leaned on him at the house party and after he called her a derogatory name.
While standing outside the house, Columbus Jones asked for and received his gun from his brother, Mark Jones, just before Columbus Jones began shooting, Rogers told the jury.
Mark Jones, 22, of Cambridge Avenue, has pleaded guilty to the felonious assaults and to a reduced charge of involuntary manslaughter, and the prosecution is recommending a 10-year prison term for him. His plea deal is contingent on truthful testimony against his co-defendants.
After the shooting, Rogers said he and his co-defendants went to a LaClede Avenue apartment, where the shooters washed their hands with ammonia to eliminate gunshot residue. Rogers testified he carried, but did not fire, a handgun that night.
John Ams, a defense lawyer for Jackson, cross-examined Rogers intensely about inconsistencies in statements he gave police and prosecutors and in his trial testimony concerning the brand name and exact caliber of gun carried by each armed defendant and details of the fight at the house party.
Rogers, however, never deviated from his statement that Columbus Jones and Jamelle Jackson were the shooters.
Earlier Friday, Dr. Joseph Ohr, a forensic pathologist and deputy Mahoning County coroner, who performed an autopsy on Johnson, told jurors Johnson died within “seconds or, possibly, a minute or two” after being shot in the head.
Johnson was shot four times — once in the head, once in the left buttock and twice in the left leg, the coroner’s report said.
Johnson was shot as he tried to usher party-goers to safety inside the house as the shots were being fired, according to Rebecca Doherty, chief of the criminal division of the Mahoning County Prosecutor’s office.