A judge condemned a 2018 Hempstead shooting ambush that left one person dead and another wounded as "cowardly and senseless" Friday before sending one of the defendants to prison for 37 years to life.
"I can't imagine the terror people felt hearing gunfire outside their door at 11 o'clock in the morning," acting State Supreme Court Justice Robert Schwartz said while sentencing Jamik Cannon, 28, of Hempstead. "These cowardly and senseless crimes call for severe punishment."
A jury in May convicted Cannon of murder, assault and weapon charges. His trial followed a shooting on Oct. 19, 2018, in which he and an accomplice opened fire on a residential block because of a grudge authorities said Cannon had against slaying victim Demetrius Winfield, 30.
The victim's toddler son, Brighton Winfield, was in Nassau County Court with other members of Winfield's family as Cannon learned his sentence.
Winfield's relatives spoke about their loss, including how both Winfield's mother and father died while grieving his murder. They also spoke of forgiveness.
"This is his son here. He doesn't have his grandparents or his Dad," Winfield's grandmother, Delores Jackson, told Cannon.
The Uniondale woman then encouraged Cannon to turn his back on being a "thug" and to read the Bible, saying she wished him peace and prayed for his family.
"The court says one thing, but God has the ultimate plan for you," added Jackson, 70.
Cannon's trial was the first murder trial to involve a Nassau jury since the pandemic started. The jurors, who also acquitted Cannon of attempted murder, sat in a socially distanced format in the courtroom as proceedings were live-streamed for public access.
Prosecutors said during the trial that Cannon was trying to settle a dispute he’d had with Winfield at a gas station three days earlier. Cannon shot Winfield at point-blank range as the victim tried to run for his life, prosecutor Michelle Lewisohn told jurors.
She said Cannon and his co-conspirator, Brian Marshall-Gibson, fired 15 gunshots, with one wounding Winfield’s friend as he "crouched in terror" during the ambush in front of a Wellesley Street home.
"To this day he shows no remorse for taking a life in broad daylight — which was planned and premeditated and brutal," Lewisohn added Friday of Cannon.
Cannon's attorney, Dennis Lemke, said after court that his client maintains his innocence and intends to appeal his conviction.
The attackers had seen Winfield at a deli before later hiding behind a house and pouncing on him and his friend, a 33-year-old cab driver on a work break, after the victims parked across the street, according to prosecutors.
The cabbie survived his wound, but Winfield died from a bullet that hit him in the face during the 14-second barrage of gunfire.
Last year a judge sentenced Marshall-Gibson, then 25, of South Floral Park, to 20 years to life in prison after his guilty plea to murder, attempted murder and weapon charges.
Lewisohn said in her opening statement that surveillance video and DNA would prove the two men acted together. She said police recovered one of their guns in a sewer, before authorities found Marshall-Gibson’s fingerprint on a bullet in it and matched a casing from the weapon to casings from the shooting scene.
Video also showed Cannon and Marshall-Gibson went shopping for new clothes and burned what they’d worn during the shooting — remnants of which police found, according to the prosecutor.
Winfield's aunt, Angela Derosena, 49, said Friday he had volunteered as a Hempstead youth football coach and had been working part-time for the county while planning to get a construction job. The pain of losing him "almost destroyed us all," the Uniondale woman said of her family.
She said Winfield's mother had a fatal heart attack before his father — who spoke at Marshall-Gibson's sentencing — got sicker and sicker before his organs gave out and he died several months ago.
"The reason that we are forgiving is because who would wish that on anyone?" she added of Cannon's sentence. "... I don't want my nephew to grow up with hate and then we're just repeating the cycle."