A grand jury has indicted a Lido Beach teenager in connection with the stabbing death of an Oceanside High School senior whom authorities say he killed by plunging a knife into the unarmed victim's chest in an after-school fight.
Last week Nassau police arrested Tyler Flach, 18, charging him with second-degree murder in the Sept. 16 slaying of Khaseen Morris, 16. He pleaded not guilty to the charge at an initial District Court arraignment.
But the indictment against Flach remains sealed and the charge or charges he would face at a trial won't become public until his future arraignment in Nassau County Court.
Nassau District Attorney's Office spokesman Brendan Brosh declined to comment after a court conference Tuesday when news of the indictment emerged, citing an ongoing investigation.
One of the victim's sisters heralded the indictment as the "first step" toward finding peace.
“That’s so great,” Keyanna Morris, 30, said in a phone interview. “Now this can finally move forward and hopefully justice can fully be served.”
Morris said her family was busy planning her brother’s funeral service and had been expecting to hear about the grand jury's vote. She said she had visited the site of her brother's attack earlier in the day and found candles still burning in his memory.
Morris said her family will be present in court “every step of the way” for the criminal case.
Attorney Steve Christiansen, who is part of Flach's defense team, said after Tuesday's court conference that Flach, a Nassau Community College student, maintains his innocence. He also criticized the law enforcement investigation of the case.
Police have said the violence broke out after Morris went to a strip mall near his school knowing that the ex-boyfriend of a girl he was friendly with had wanted to confront him.
Morris’ family has said he had texted the ex-boyfriend to say he wasn’t dating the girl, but simply had walked her home from a party. But Morris knew the girl’s ex-boyfriend thought he was dating the girl, according to police.
Police have said Flach and his friends — a group of six or seven in all — sought out Morris and charged at him and "his couple of friends" before Flach stabbed him once during that melee.
Police also have said that dozens of students witnessed the brawl, with some recording video and posting it on social media, but few helped Morris as he was bleeding on the ground.
Police got the first of seven 911 calls at 3:46 p.m., according to Nassau Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder. They responded within two minutes, but Morris died hours later while hospitalized, authorities said.
Police have urged anyone who was a witness or has video evidence to contact them, saying others may face criminal charges. Det. Lt. Stephen Fitzpatrick, the homicide squad's commander, also issued a public warning last week to teens who were involved or at the scene, telling them they should come forward with their version of events.
But Christiansen, the defense lawyer, said after Tuesday's court conference that law enforcement officials had "leveled an ultimatum basically at all of the young people there present at the parking lot at the time of this incident."
He continued: "That ultimatum basically was ‘Either come in and help us prosecute Mr. Flach or you’ll be arrested.’ … What’s implied is, 'Either you’re with us or you’re against us.'"
Christiansen added that was "not a proper environment for an investigation," saying the defense was doing its own probe "that's not going to be contaminated by witnesses who come in and say what they think the police want to hear, or readily adopt the narrative that the police would have them adopt to be consistent with their theory of the case.”
But Ryder released a statement Tuesday evening in response, saying that homicide detectives “did an outstanding job on this investigation” and had arrested “the individual responsible for Khaseen’s death.”
Edward Sapone, another lawyer for Flach, said in a statement that "Tyler did not want the indictment delayed" and "looks forward to his day in court."
Morris, who would have turned 17 next month, dreamed of studying photography, had a talent for drawing and writing music and got around on his skateboard, his family said.