Two underage witnesses picked out Tyler Flach in photo arrays as the assailant who stabbed a 16-year-old Oceanside High School senior during a deadly after-school brawl in 2019, according to police testimony Monday.
Flach, 20, appeared in Nassau County Court for an evidence hearing nearly 18 months after the slaying of victim Khaseen Morris and amid safety restrictions in place due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Lido Beach man, who remains remanded at Nassau’s jail, previously pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder, felony gang assault, misdemeanor assault and a weapon charge.
Morris, the youngest of four siblings, had dreamed of studying photography, had a talent for drawing and writing music and was a skateboarder.
Acting State Supreme Court Justice Howard Sturim limited the courtroom’s capacity to 20 people as detectives testified Monday about carrying out photo array procedures with two teenage witnesses and interviewing a third witness who also identified Flach after the stabbing on Sept. 16, 2019.
The first two witnesses, a male and a female, identified Flach as the person who carried out the stabbing at a Brower Avenue strip mall after viewing photo arrays with their mothers present, according to police testimony.
A detective's testimony also showed a third teenage witness told police she recognized Flach from social media before picking him out of a still photo taken from surveillance video at the stabbing scene — where she had seen Flach fighting.
The judge ruled at the hearing's conclusion that the three witness identifications police testified about could be used at trial. But Flach's attorney, Edward Sapone, still expressed confidence in the defense's case after court.
"We learned today that the first I.D. witness was a teen who felt pressured and the last I.D. witness never once even met Mr. Flach. We will prevail at trial," he added.
A spokesman for the Nassau County District Attorney's Office declined to comment Monday, as did Morris' family. Flach's mother ignored a request for comment while leaving court.
Nassau Det. Anthony Chieco told prosecutor Ania Pulaski that the male witness only looked for a second at a photo array, turning towards a wall and saying he didn't know if he recognized any of the six males depicted.
But the witness looked again at the photo array for about 10 seconds, before picking out a photo of Flach as the person he "believed" had stabbed Morris, the detective testified.
Later, Sapone questioned why Chieco didn't accept the witness’ first answer and suggested the word "believed" didn't indicate certainty.
Pulaski told the judge she had disclosed to the defense that the male witness told her later that he had felt pressured by the situation, but no pressure when it came to picking out any particular person from the photo array.
Nassau Det. Tristan Cetto said the second witness, a female, picked Flach out as the person who did the stabbing as part of a photo array procedure.
Then homicide squad Det. John Mitchell testified about the third witness, recalling the teenager said "that's Tyler Flach" when police showed her a still photo from the scene.
Law enforcement officials have alleged Flach stabbed Morris in the heart after Flach and a group of his friends charged at Morris and his friends.
Court records show gang assault charges remain pending against seven other young defendants, all from Long Beach, who authorities say took part in the brawl with Flach.
Police have said the stabbing happened after Morris went to the location knowing the ex-boyfriend of a girl he’d befriended wanted to confront him. Morris’ family has said he texted the ex-boyfriend to say he wasn’t dating the girl but had walked her home from a party.