Police revealed at a court hearing Monday that they have an eyewitness who has identified a man charged in the shooting death of 12-year-old Hempstead girl Dejah Joyner as the triggerman.
The reluctant male witness came forward six days after the Oct. 16, 2015 crime, following repeated urging from his mother, and picked Jakwan Keller out of a photo array as the culprit, Nassau Homicide Det. Frederick Goldman testified.
Keller, 21, also of Hempstead, previously pleaded not guilty to murder and weapon charges and has been jailed without bail since his January 2016 arrest in connection with Dejah’s slaying.
The seventh-grader and Girl Scout died a day after suffering a gunshot to her head when a single bullet blasted through a window of her family’s Dartmouth Street home as she ate dinner.
Defense attorney Bruce Barket on Monday sought to cast doubt on the eyewitness’ account. He told acting State Supreme Court Justice Meryl Berkowitz in Nassau County Court that surveillance video evidence proved what the man told police was untrue because it showed the witness was walking away — not sitting on a porch as he claimed — before the shooter’s car drove up.
But Berkowitz denied Barket’s motion for an additional hearing after prosecutor Michael Walsh disagreed with the defense’s characterization of the video.
“The witness repeatedly denied being able to see who fired the gun and when you look at the videotape, it’s obvious he couldn’t have seen it,” Barket added in an interview after court.
A district attorney’s office spokeswoman said later Monday that her office couldn’t release copies of the video and audio tapings that were entered as evidence in court because a judge previously had signed a protective order making them unavailable to the public.
Police have alleged an incident between warring factions of the Bloods street gang led to the deadly shooting that sparked outrage in the Hempstead neighborhood — highlighting what some have described as a plague of gun violence in the village.
Police have said Keller fired into Dejah’s house from a vehicle because he believed the girl’s older brother stole a hoverboard from his younger brother, and that Keller and the victim’s brother are in two different Bloods factions.
Goldman also testified Monday that the eyewitness — whose name authorities withheld in court — implicated Keller after coming to police headquarters with his mother and first denying having seen anything before later saying he was worried police wouldn’t be able to protect him.
But after the mother intervened, the witness said he saw a man he knew by the street name “Trap” drive up wearing a “murder one mask” — or one that revealed only his eyes — and take a shot at the house, Goldman said.
But after more urging from the man’s mother, the witness then identified the shooter as Keller and said he hadn’t been wearing a mask, the detective testified.
Prosecutors then played an audio recording in court of the witness repeating his account of seeing “Trap” pointing a gun out a car window and firing one shot before hearing Dejah’s family screaming her name inside her house.
Members of both the victim’s family and the defendant’s family were in court for the hearing, which continues Tuesday.
Dejah’s paternal grandmother, Kym Lindsay, called the case “a tragedy for both families,” and also added in a brief interview that prayer has been sustaining her family as they miss the girl, whose 14th birthday would have been next week.