Judge Says ‘No Question’ Juvenile Suspect Should Be Held in Homicide Case

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DC Superior Court Judge Dorsey Jones ruled that a 15-year-old murder suspect should be detained, saying, “No question about it…the intent was to kill. That’s what happened.”

During the Feb. 13 hearing, the prosecution summarized evidence from surveillance cameras, cell phone records and Uber location data as well as recovered clothing in an effort to prove the juvenile committed a fatal shooting.

The youth was charged with first-and-second degree murder, assault with intent to kill, carrying a pistol without a license with an extended magazine and unlawful discharge of a firearm related to the killing of Jihad Darden,  27, on the 5400 block of Illinois Avenue, NW on Dec. 18, 2023.

Shell casings from a .40 caliber weapon as well as a 9 mm gun were found at the scene. 

Speaking on her client’s behalf, the defense attorney entered a not guilty plea and asked for the defendant to be released to his mother’s custody.  The teenager’s mother and grandmother were in the courtroom. 

According to a release from the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD), the teen was located in Bowie, Md. with the assistance of Prince George’s County police and arrested on Feb. 7.  On Feb. 12, the suspect was extradited to DC to face criminal prosecution. 

The lead homicide detective in the case presented a chronological account of the crime beginning with the shooting itself.  According to the officer, police were alerted to gunfire by the ShotSpotter system at 11:46 a.m. the day of the crime.

A witness, who was walking with Darden, said a suspect came from behind and shot multiple times, mortally wounding him.  The companion, who had a licensed handgun, returned fire, ducking behind a car. 

The assailant was described as a light-skinned little boy in a face mask carrying a book bag and wearing a green hoodie with distinctive markings, a black coat, along with red and white Jordan tennis shoes. 

Darden was driven in a private vehicle to Howard University Hospital where he was pronounced dead. 

While surveillance footage of the incident was not shown in the courtroom, the detective said he observed a suspect in the video matching that description headed toward an apartment building not far from the shooting, then he entered a side door and departed approximately 25 minutes later.

From there the suspect took an Uber ride, and according to information subpoenaed from the ride-share service, was dropped off in Bowie. 

Based on a review of the footage and interviews with people in the neighborhood where the shooting occurred, the detective said the suspect allegedly hung out in the area for a number of years and was a high school student. 

In addition, according to the detective, records retrieved from a stolen cell phone follow the flight path of the suspect from the murder scene to Bowie.  In addition, police were able to recover clothing similar to that used in the crime.  

Under questioning from the defense, the detective acknowledged that there was no direct identification of the juvenile as the shooter at the scene.  

The juvenile’s lawyer said the shooting was possibly related to a longstanding beef between the defendant’s brother and the victim. An avenue the defense said the police should have pursued. 

“The evidence here is all circumstantial at best,” the juvenile’s lawyer told Judge Jones, emphasizing that there was no connection between Darden and the suspect.  

“Police simply didn’t try very hard,” the defense lawyer said. 

In asking for release, counsel said the juvenile is not a danger to the community, helps out at home and has had no significant contact with authorities.

His mother said she would prefer that he be with her rather than in jail.  

After finding probable cause, Judge Jones said the prosecution made a “very strong case.”  Had this not been such a serious crime, he said he would have considered a shelter for the teenager. However, in light of the facts, the judge ordered detention by the Department of Youth and Rehabilitation Services (DYRS).  

The next hearing in the case is scheduled for Feb. 21.

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