The Washington Post
Prosecutor: Cellphone video links teen to slaying of man in wheelchair
A D.C. prosecutor played a chilling cellphone video in court Wednesday that she argued shows a 15-year-old pointing a gun out the window of a stolen car just before he fatally shot a man sitting in a wheelchair outside his Northeast Washington home.
The video is key to prosecutors’ case against the teen, who was arrested and charged Tuesday with first-degree murder while armed and more than a half-dozen other criminal offenses in connection with the Jan. 18 fatal shooting of Devin Brewer, 19. The new evidence emerged during a more than three-hour hearing.
Though defense attorneys argued the video did not clearly show the 15-year-old — and that it came from a shared cellphone — D.C. Superior Court Magistrate Judge Sherri Beatty-arthur ordered the teenager to be committed to the city’s Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services until trial. Through his defense attorney, public defender Taylor Dodson, the teen entered a plea of “not involved.”
The Washington Post generally does not identify juveniles charged with crimes unless they are charged in adult court, and The Post was permitted to attend the hearing virtually on the condition that the identity of the teen — who is charged as a juvenile — was not made public.
The video, which lasted just over two minutes, was played twice for the judge. D.C. police detective Kiernan Speight testified that it had been retrieved from the teen’s cellphone, though the teen’s defense said that was far from proven.
During the video recording, the cellphone appears to be placed in the passenger seat and is recording the driver. Speight said that driver was the teen, talking to himself.
“Got them Heights. Spinning in the Heights,” the driver says. Speight told the judge that “Heights” is slang for the Lincoln Heights neighborhood, where Brewer was killed. Police believe the teen was in an ongoing feud with gangs in that area.
At one point in the video, the camera shows the dashboard and a clock displaying 7:58 p.m.
Seconds later, a black gun is pointed through the passenger window, and two muffled gunshots can be heard — though the camera at that point is not on the weapon. The detective testified that the city’s Shotspotter recorded the gunshots at 7:59 p.m.
Someone then grabs the camera and looks into the phone, his masked face captured on a frame that freezes. Only the person’s eyes and lower forehead are visible. Speight said detectives believe that person is the teen.
Speight testified the teen’s eyes and eyebrows were distinctive, and the judge seemed to agree.
The detective said police also found in the phone text messages that they believe show the teen bragging about the killing to a young girl. In one message, the teen says he “bagged” Brewer, using a nickname for him. When the girl asks how, the youth writes that he “shot” him, the messages show.
Dodson, the teen’s defense attorney, argued there were no eyewitnesses or DNA evidence connecting the teen to Brewer’s killing, and two of police’s key cooperators had their own criminal cases in which they are seeking leniency in exchange for information.
She argued that at least two other people had access to the teen’s cellphone.
Beatty-arthur acknowledged there were some “challenges” with the credibility of the two people who told police the teen killed Brewer, and conceded that other individuals could have had access to the teen’s cellphone. But she credited the cellphone video and the text message evidence in ordering the teen detained.
Law enforcement officials have told The Post that police also suspect the teen in the fatal shooting of 39-year-old Timothy Stewart, who was killed four days after Brewer as he was walking to a store in Northeast Washington.
The teen was charged in June with 14 offenses not connected to the killings, including armed carjacking, armed robbery and receiving stolen property, and later pleaded guilty to lesser charges, according to information reviewed by The Post.
The teen is scheduled to be sentenced in that case on July 28.