Co-defendant testifies teen fired gun into party. Amya Monserrat killed and 3 hurt
YOUNGSTOWN — Saun Peterson, 21, testified Monday he was the driver of a dark blue Mercedes Benz that drove around the Martha’s Boulevard Bar and Grille on Southern Boulevard several times April 15 to intimidate the people outside the tavern.
At the time, a birthday party for a 16-year-old was taking place at the tavern.
Peterson testified in Mahoning County Juvenile Court that he saw people in the crowd with guns and that Danyo Sellers, then 16, was in his front passenger seat with a gun. Peterson said someone from the crowd fired a gun, and Sellers fired back immediately. Peterson was being questioned at the time by Anissa Modarelli, county assistant prosecutor. Sellers also is known as Legend Pless and is now 17.
Under cross examination by Michael Scala, Sellers’ attorney, Peterson clarified that Sellers fired the gun over the top of the Mercedes Benz because the people at the party were on the driver’s side of the car at the time. His car did not get hit with any gunfire, Peterson said.
The people at the party were scared because of Peterson driving around the tavern multiple times, he said, agreeing that he was trying to antagonize the people at the party and looking for his sister, who was at the party. She was there because her boyfriend was performing rap music at the party, Peterson testified.
Peterson also agreed with Modarelli that one reason the people at the party felt scared was because Sellers was pointing his gun at them.
Peterson pleaded guilty last week in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court to involuntary manslaughter and other charges in the episode. Prosecutors are recommending that Peterson get 10 to 12 1/2 years in prison. He will be sentenced later and is required by his plea agreement to testify in Sellers’ case.
Peterson was one of two witnesses who testified Monday in Sellers’ probable cause hearing before Judge Theresa Dellick. The purpose of the hearing was for prosecutors to try to establish probable cause that Sellers fired the shots that night that killed Amya Monserrat, 15, and injured three other people.
If the judge determines that probable cause was proven, she will bind the case over to Mahoning County Common Pleas Court, where a grand jury would decide whether to indict Sellers on adult-level charges. At the end of the hearing, the judge said she will render a decision by the end of this week.
Monserrat was a student and cheerleader at Valley Christian School, also on Southern Boulevard. She was attending the party at the time she was fatally wounded.
Sellers was at the hearing with his attorney. His mother sat at the defense table. Members of Monserrat’s family also were in the seating area watching.
In April, Sellers entered a “denial” to murder and three counts of attempted murder in the episode. Denial is the juvenile equivalent to not guilty in adult court.
Police have said the incident involved two groups of people shooting at each other over a conflict and that Amya was hit by a “stray bullet.”
Youngstown Police detective Michael Cox also testified that as he investigated the case, people told him about someone known as Legend Pless, and Cox learned about Peterson’s sister and other people.
He also acquired surveillance video from nearby St. Dominic Church that showed a dark Mercedes Benz driving around the tavern a couple of times. Cox said it was clear that there were adults in the tavern’s parking lot, and they were “doing the right thing to disperse the party” after people became alarmed by the Mercedes Benz.
The images of the car on video suggested that the driver was “antagonizing” or “taunting” the “fleeing kids” at the party, Cox said. Within 60 to 90 seconds the Mercedes came back and “flashes” of light can be detected on the video because “somebody was shooting a gun,” Cox said.
Surveillance video at a nearby school, Horizon Science Academy, also shows “flashes of light,” he said.
Under questioning by Scala, Cox said the first shot appears to have come from someone at the party, “unless I missed a shot,” but the second shot came at “nearly the same time” from the car at nearly the same time as the first shot.
When Scala asked Cox if it was possible shots came from the back seat of the Mercedes Benz, Cox said yes. When asked whether any of the people at the party admitted to having a gun, Cox said no. When Scala asked whether anyone said Sellers had any conflict with anybody at the party, Cox said no.