A DC gang member describes the shooting of a college-bound teenager | Media Pyro


Shackled at the wrists and ankles, Phillip McDaniel testified in D.C. Superior Court wearing an orange D.C. Jail jumpsuit. Two of his friends are on trial in the fatal shooting of a 17-year-old college-goer by a stray bullet one August afternoon five years ago. McDaniel is a key witness for prosecutors, who admitted to running the men from the scene.

McDaniel said the shooting was an attempt to retaliate against a rival neighborhood gang in Northeast Washington, but teenager Jamahri Sidner was not the target. A day earlier, a member of the Saratoga Crew had opened fire on himself and two friends from the Langston Park Crew: James Mayfield and Robert Moses. They set out for payback, McDaniel testified, not caring who was shot in the other neighborhood.

McDaniel described how he drove his gold Honda Accord to the intersection of Saratoga and Montana avenues, stopped the car and started the ignition with his foot on the brake. He said he observed Mayfield and Moses pull masks over their faces, jump out of the car and casually walk through some bushes.

McDaniel said he knew what was going to happen, so he turned up the radio volume.

“I just wanted to get some rest,” he told Assistant U.S. Attorney Kimberly Nielsen. “I was kind of nervous. I had butterflies, you know. It was something that was going to happen. “

Their college-going daughter was killed by a stray bullet. Then their act of kindness touched thousands.

McDaniel said he couldn’t see anything from inside the car. But a minute later he heard four gunshots. He said he saw two of his friends “jogging” back to the car.

Mayfield, holding a .45-caliber handgun, got into the back seat, McDaniel said. Moses, now holding a .40 caliber, returned to the car with McDaniel. One of them – McDaniel doesn’t remember – yelled, “Go away.”

McDaniel said he lifted his foot off the brake and pressed the gas pedal.

McDaniel, 26, is central to prosecutors’ case against Mayfield and Moses, both 23, who authorities allege hid in bushes and fired multiple bullets indiscriminately into a busy intersection on the afternoon of Aug. 10, 2017. The bullets shattered the windows of Jamahri’s car as he was driving his 12-year-old nephew home from the barbershop.

A graduate of Woodrow Wilson High School in upper-Northwest Washington, Jamahri was less than two weeks away from his freshman year as a communications major at Florida A&M University. She was hit on the head and died two days later. Her mother, a former D.C. police detective, described running to the scene after relatives called that Jamahri had been shot.

As a detective she testified about the murders. Then as a mother she had to do so.

Arrested hours after the fatal shooting, McDaniel told homicide detectives he was the getaway driver. Authorities said he accused longtime friends Moses and Mayfield of firing the shots.

During some of McDaniel’s testimony, security was heightened in the courtroom, with six U.S. marshals stationed throughout the room.

Defense attorneys argued that McDaniel, who was one of the shooters, lied to authorities after his arrest. They allege that he pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges and second-degree murder to receive a lighter prison sentence than Mayfield and Moses, who were charged with first-degree murder and face more than 40 years in prison if convicted.

Under cross-examination by Moses’ attorney, Steven Kirsch, McDaniel admitted to telling one of his ex-girlfriends that he expected to get out of prison in about seven years because of his cooperation, having already spent five years in a D.C. jail. Under questioning by Mayfield’s attorney, Veronese Holt, McDaniel admitted that Mayfield had never been thinly built with dreadlocks or plaits — that’s how a witness described one of the shooters. That description fits much better with McDaniel himself.

Defense attorneys also argue that McDaniel was too drugged to remember the details of the events. McDaniel has been using drugs since he was a teenager, selling guns and stolen cars, and he admitted to smoking Percocet and marijuana on the day of the shooting. He also admitted to lying to detectives several times after his arrest, including selling a gun to an undercover police officer after he signed his cooperation agreement.

“I didn’t want to get into more trouble,” he said.

McDaniel described how he was close with Moses and Mayfield before the shooting. McDaniel said that after his mother died of a heroin overdose as a teenager, he, his then-girlfriend and their infant daughter moved in with Moses, Moses’ brother, and their mother. McDaniel said he has known Moses since he was 12 years old and calls him “brother.” He referred to Moses’ mother as “mother.”

As McDaniel testified, Moses looked straight. McDaniel said he considers Mayfield “like a brother.”

McDaniel said the three were part of the Langston Park Crew and the day before the fatal shooting, saw a member of the rival Saratoga Crew on the sidewalk.

“We planned to catch him on the next street,” McDaniel said.

McDaniel said they chased the man, jumped out of the car and grabbed his jacket. “My intention was to attack him,” McDaniel said. But then, the man pulled a gun from his waistband and fired three or four rounds into the air above them. They let the man go and he ran away.

“I was laughing,” McDaniel recalled. That’s when the three planned a “comeback,” as McDaniel called it. They agreed to drive to the 1400 block of Saratoga Avenue and start shooting “at no specific individuals.” “They shot at us, so we’re going to do the same thing,” McDaniel said.

The case in Judge Maribeth Ruffinan’s courtroom could go to a jury as early as Nov. 15.


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