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Pedro Merchant acquitted of murder charge in fatal Hempstead shooting

Pedro Merchant leaves Nassau Police headquarters in Mineola

Pedro Merchant leaves Nassau Police headquarters in Mineola to be arraigned on Sept 20, 2013. A jury acquitted Merchant of murder charges on Wednesday, May 20, 2015. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

The defendant in a Hempstead murder case left a courtroom smiling Wednesday after a jury found him not guilty in a 2013 shooting that left a 17-year-old dead.

Pedro Merchant, 22, of North Valley Stream, was acquitted of second-degree murder and two weapon charges.

Extra security was brought in to avoid a repeat of the melee that happened after Merchant's September 2013 arraignment. The brawl between supporters of the accused and the shooting victim resulted in the arrests of six people on felony rioting charges.

This time, relatives on both sides remained calm, heeding a warning from acting State Supreme Court Justice David Sullivan in Mineola.

"Based on the evidence that was presented to the jury, that was the right verdict. The jury did their job," Mineola defense attorney Greg Madey said after Merchant's relatives shook his hand.

Madey said a key prosecution witness testified during the trial that he couldn't remember what happened that night.

The mother of the victim, Dante Quinones-Wright of Hempstead, said through tears that the verdict heaped even more pain upon her loss.

"It's sad to know that somebody got away with taking my son away from me. He was everything to me," said Chrissie Quinones, 36. "I don't wish this on nobody, not even the murderer's family," she said.

The district attorney's office declined to comment.

Merchant had been accused of firing seven shots at Quinones-Wright with a .25-caliber semiautomatic gun -- with three bullets striking the victim -- during a Sept. 11, 2013, confrontation on Dartmouth Street.

Quinones-Wright had been hanging out outside with friends at the time, according to authorities, who said he died later that night at a hospital.

Jurors asked for a recap Wednesday of some trial testimony before reaching their verdict. Part of that testimony showed the victim lost consciousness after pulling off a medical mask and trying to tell a Hempstead police officer who shot him.

"He said 'It was . . . It was . . .' and passed out," Officer Roman Pettway had testified.

The defendant's father, Terry Merchant, briefly spoke with one of Quinones-Wright's relatives after the verdict as court officers kept the parties separated.

"Sorry for your loss," Merchant said.

"God bless you," the woman replied.

Then Merchant's father left with other family members to go pick up his son.

"It was fair," he said of the verdict. "I told them from the beginning my son didn't do it."

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