‘It was literally a riot,’ YSU frat house shooting victim says
By John W. Goodwin Jr.
Testimony in the murder trial of a Youngstown man accused of killing a Youngstown State University senior and wounding 10 other people during a fraternity party Feb. 6, 2011, continued with police and victims detailing the events of that deadly night.
Jamelle Jackson, 20, is charged with the murder of 25-year-old Jamail Johnson and 10 counts of felonious assault at the off-campus party on Indiana Avenue. He also is charged with shooting into a habitation. If convicted on all counts, Jackson could spend the rest of his life in prison.
Judge John Durkin of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court is presiding over the trial in a Summit County courtroom. Prosecutors, defense attorneys and the court agreed to move the trial to Akron because of pretrial publicity, especially after the conviction of co-defendant Columbus Jones earlier this year. Jones, convicted of murder and multiple felonious assaults, was sentenced to more than nine decades in prison.
Testimony resumes today.
Wednesday’s testimony focused on tension and fights leading up to the shooting and the chaotic scene that followed.
Selina Howard, a 20-year-old YSU student, was at the party and was one of the 10 people hit by gunfire while trying to run away when the shooting started. Howard was shot in the leg. Two friends attending the party with her also were shot.
Howard told the court she remembers a fight breaking out inside the house and seeing members of the fraternity pushing Jackson, Columbus Jones and two other men out the back door of the house.
Howard said she was standing near that door and saw Jamail Johnson attempting to reason with the men and asking the women who were standing near the door to come inside.
Howard said she did go back inside to find her friends and prepare to leave, but the gunfire started and seconds later she was under a pile of people scrambling for safety.
“It was literally a riot trying to get out of the gunfire,” she said.
Howard and her friends ended up in the hospital with non-life-threatening gunshot wounds. She missed three weeks of school, but was able to return to her studies that same semester.
Jaleesa Moore, another student shot during the party, did not recover so quickly or completely. Moore was shot in the elbow and left side. She told the court she has not been able to perform nominal tasks such as typing, combing her hair or applying lotion to the opposite side of her body since the shooting.
Jordan Wagner, a 21-year-old YSU student, was shot in the foot and shoulder. He said he knew Columbus Jones and several other people allegedly with Jones and Jackson at the party from youth sports and living in the same community.
Wagner said he saw a fight break out inside the house between Jones and the men he was with and another group.
He also saw a man described as wearing all black and a red hat or hood pull out a gun as he was being pushed from the party by fraternity members looking to break up the fight. He recalls hearing multiple gunshots from two different guns, but did not see who fired the shots into the house.
“I didn’t know I had been shot until I left the party and went outside. I had been shot twice,” he said. Wagner said he also missed a lot of school and dropped several classes after the shooting. He now attends school part time.
Patrol Officer Joe Moran said he was forced to jog most of the way to the house because the road was blocked by cars and people attempting to flee the area. When he reached the house, he said, he spent time securing the scene and attending to the wounded, even holding a finger over the bleeding wound of one person who had been shot in an attempt to stop the bleeding.
Rebecca Doherty and Dawn Cantalamessa, assistant county prosecutors, contend that Jackson and Columbus Jones are responsible for firing the volley of shots into the house.
Defense lawyers John Ams and Douglas Taylor do not dispute the suffering of those inside the house, but they said the state has placed the wrong man on trial.