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Jakwan Keller pleads not guilty in murder of Dejah Joyner, 12

Jakwan Keller, who is charged in the death

Jakwan Keller, who is charged in the death of Dejah Joyner, 12, arrives at Nassau County Court in Mineola, where he entered a plea of not guilty on Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016. Credit: Howard Schnapp

The alleged gang member accused in the shooting death of a 12-year-old Hempstead girl pleaded not guilty Tuesday to murder and weapon charges after a grand jury’s four-count indictment.

The Mineola arraignment of Jakwan Keller, 20, of Hempstead, took place as the family of victim Dejah Joyner sat in the courtroom wearing shirts with the slogan “Justice for Dejah.”

The seventh-grader and Girl Scout died in October after a single bullet pierced a window of her home and hit her in the head as she ate dinner, authorities have said.

An incident between warring parts of the Bloods street gang led to the fatal shooting, police said.

Prosecutors have alleged Keller was outside the victim’s home in a vehicle on Oct. 16 when he fired a single shot into the residence.

After Keller’s plea Tuesday in the Nassau County courtroom, acting State Supreme Court Justice Meryl Berkowitz ordered him remanded to jail without bail.

Keller’s attorney, Bruce Barket, told the judge the defense would reserve the right to ask for bail until after reviewing exculpatory evidence in the case.

Nassau Assistant District Attorney Lauren Nickerson said the prosecution was turning over evidence to the defense that included an electronic copy of Keller’s statement to police.

Dejah’s death sparked community outrage and an extensive hunt for a suspect. Part of Dartmouth Street, where her family lived, later was named for her.

Police have alleged Keller fired the fatal shot in retaliation for someone stealing a hoverboard from his younger brother.

Nassau acting Police Commissioner Thomas Krumpter has alleged Keller believed Dejah’s older brother stole the hoverboard, and said the two are in different Bloods factions.

The defense has insisted police arrested the wrong man.

“Somebody else fired a gun and shot that girl,” Barket said after the arraignment. “ . . . I’m not going to go into too many facts, but the police have kind of a half a story, but not the complete story. And they have the players wrong.”

Barket added: “They have evidence Mr. Keller was not involved in this and that’s what’s most interesting to us at this point.”

The Garden City attorney wouldn’t say where his client was at the time of the shooting. He said the defense looks forward to going through “volumes of exculpatory evidence . . . to help determine who actually killed this young girl.”

In a prepared statement, Nassau District Attorney Madeline Singas’ office said later the prosecution had “turned over evidence to which the defense is entitled by law, including substantial evidence that supports the charges upon which the grand jury indicted the defendant.”

Dejah’s mother spoke briefly while leaving the courthouse, telling reporters: “I’m OK, day by day, making it.”

Keller’s family didn’t comment.

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