Jennifer Nelson, of Shirley, at Suffolk County Court in Riverhead...

Jennifer Nelson, of Shirley, at Suffolk County Court in Riverhead on Wednesday. She is on trial for charges that include attempted murder. Credit: James Carbone

A William Floyd High School student told a Suffolk jury Thursday he heard a car rushing toward him in the moments before he was struck and run over twice by a vehicle driven by the mother of a classmate who believed he stole her son’s designer footwear.

Jonathan Gamez, now 16, testified that Jennifer Nelson opened the door after she backed up to run him over for a second time in a bagel shop parking lot in Mastic Beach and was holding a knife. Her son was laughing in the front passenger seat, he said, and afterward she quickly sped away.

“She left at a high speed,” Gamez told the jury in Supreme Court Justice Timothy Mazzei’s courtroom. “She just left me there.”

Nelson, 35, of Shirley is on trial for attempted murder in the incident, which occurred the morning of Oct. 7, 2022, after her son called her to report he had been attacked by a group of students who stole his Adidas Ye Slides, a popular footwear designed by the rapper formerly known as Kanye West.

WHAT TO KNOW

  • A William Floyd High School student described to a Suffolk jury Thursday how he was struck and run over twice by a vehicle driven by a classmate's mother who believed he had stolen shoes from her son.
  • Jonathan Gamez testified that he couldn't feel his legs after being run down and that the mother charged in the case, Jennifer Nelson, then sped away.
  • The jury saw visual evidence including the teen's damaged clothes: a ripped jacket, dirty pants, a broken belt and a sweatshirt with tire marks on it. 

Gamez, who was 15 at the time, said he was running to the bagel shop, which is next to the high school, to get away from a man who had chased him with a machete from a neighboring Dunkin’ parking lot. A surveillance video shown in court Wednesday showed the man had arrived in a different car at the same time Nelson returned to the scene around 9:30 a.m.

A cellphone video played for the jury showed Nelson had already been at the Dunkin’ at about 7:30 a.m., when she pulled out what witnesses said was a knife and threatened the teens that their life “is ended.”

“It’s a wrap,” she could be heard telling the teens. “Understand it.”

Gamez said after he was chased by the man, he ran across a crosswalk to the bagel shop to find safety, but was struck by Nelson’s Honda Passport before he could get away.

“I felt the weight of the tires were on me,” the teen told the court through a Spanish-language interpreter. He said she then backed up and ran him over again in reverse, his abdomen and legs briefly pinned under her tires.

“I couldn’t feel my legs,” Gamez told the court. “I tried to get up but … my legs weren’t strong enough.”

He said he suffered a fractured pelvis, broke ribs and his right eye was damaged from striking the pavement, an injury he said has left him with blurred vision. Prosecutors have previously said the teen also suffered a punctured lung.

While surveillance and cellphone video captured much of the earlier portions of the confrontation, the moment Nelson allegedly struck the teen with her vehicle was not recorded.

Instead, jurors were shown visual evidence in the form of Gamez's damaged clothes: a ripped jacket, dirty pants, a broken belt and a sweatshirt with tire marks on it.

But during cross examination by defense attorney Katherine Fernandez of Uniondale, Gamez admitted to playing a more active role in the attack than he had previously told investigators.

Fernandez read from a sworn statement to police from the day of the incident, in which he said he “didn’t try to fight” Nelson’s son that morning. She also questioned him about a statement he made to the grand jury that he was standing by the door to Dunkin’, distancing himself from the pack that attacked the teen.

But surveillance video played Thursday showed Gamez standing with the other teens as the attack began and stripping off his jacket as he chased after the group and Nelson’s son. When asked if he removed his jacket to make it easier to attack the teen, Gamez said “yes.” He could also be seen later walking quickly behind another teen, who had the stolen slides.

Gamez told the jury he did try to punch Nelson’s son but never connected, being blocked by another teen the first time he threw a punch and falling the next time.

He said he did not tell the truth to police for fear of being charged in the robbery of Nelson’s son.

Prosecutors have alleged Nelson, a National Grid employee, fled the scene and, in an effort to conceal her crimes, traded in her vehicle for a newer model “even though her lease was not set to expire.” She is charged with second-degree attempted murder, first-degree assault, first-degree reckless endangerment and leaving the scene of an accident with serious injuries.

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