8 adults, 4 juveniles arrested; adult sought
By Joe Gorman
Police and prosecutors say cellphone footage of a South Side street fight and shooting that killed a 17-year-old boy Sunday shows adults egging on the fighters — and also shows the victim being hit and falling to the ground.
The revelation came at a news conference Friday detailing charges against 13 people in the death of Shawn Cortez of West Ravenwood Avenue, killed in what police say was a fight between two families on Winona Avenue.
“They are disturbing, to say the least,” Martin Desmond, Mahoning County assistant prosecutor, said of the videos. “They are a shock to the conscience.”
Dejon Jenkins, 19, of Manchester Avenue, and his 17-year-old brother, David Jenkins, face charges in Cortez’s death. Dejon Jenkins is charged with murder for handing a gun to David Jenkins, who police say shot Cortez. David Jenkins is charged with aggravated murder and is in the Martin P. Joyce Juvenile Justice Center. Prosecutors are expected to ask to have his case bound over to common pleas court.
Ages of those arrested range from 15 to 46. Nine of the adults were secretly indicted Thursday by a grand jury. Four other people charged are juveniles. All are in custody except one adult.
Two women — Rouxje Ezell, 20, and Carlisha Hammonds, 19 — are charged with aggravated riot, accused of egging on the fight. Videos from their cellphones helped the investigation. Those phones were in detectives’ hands Sunday night just hours after the shooting.
At the news conference, Desmond said that the night before Cortez was killed, two groups fought each other and arranged to meet at a house on Winona Avenue on Sunday to continue the fight. When a group arrived at the house, it discovered it was outnumbered. The participants had brought guns with them but still decided to flee.
As they were running away, the people inside the house began chasing them. As they did so, people in the fleeing group started firing at their pursuers. Cortez was in the pursuing group and was killed.
Gunfire came from both groups, and at least 30 rounds were fired during the melee, police said. Desmond said investigators have heard conflicting stories and are not sure why the two groups are feuding.
“There’s family members,” Desmond said. “There’s multiple generations involved.”
Desmond said the language on the videos is shocking and the videos do a good job of capturing what happened.
“It looks almost like a movie,” Desmond said.
For now, Desmond said, the videos are evidence and will not be released. He said they are too disturbing to release anyway.
City Prosecutor Dana Lantz said both Hammonds and Ezell have had family members who were injured or killed by gun violence, which makes their actions Sunday even more disturbing.
Police Chief Robin Lees credited the lead investigator, Lt. Doug Bobovnyik, for his work and also his supervisor, chief of detectives Capt. Brad Blackburn, for his new strategy in investigating homicides.
Lees explained that Blackburn’s strategy involves meeting the day after a homicide with detectives, prosecutors, task force members and anyone else who knows the victims and suspects, and going over all intelligence on different groups. Lees said that paid off with the investigation this week. Lees said from now on police will file charges whenever possible against everyone involved in a homicide, in an effort to cut down on retaliation, which has been the motive for a large number of homicides in recent years.
“We cannot allow the retaliatory or spinoff violence that accompany these types of crimes,” Lees said.
Lees thanked the FBI and its Violent Crimes Task Force, U.S. marshals and the Mahoning County Sheriff’s Office for their help, as well as prosecutors.
Lees said the city has made strides in reducing violence this year, thanks in part to the Community Initiative To Reduce Violence program. Guy Burney, head of the program, said he mourns Cortez’s death but he also said people have to make better choices and not resort to violence.
The Rev. Kenneth Simon, who was standing behind Burney with a group of city pastors, said he is disturbed that some people accept the type of behavior that erupted Sunday. He said that has to change.
“We need to change that mindset,” the Rev. Mr. Simon said.