Optimum Customers: Your Newsday access has been extended until Oct 1st. Enroll now to continue your access.

LEARN MORE
TODAY'S PAPER
73° Good Morning
73° Good Morning
Long IslandNassau

Pedro Merchant acquitted of murder charge in fatal Hempstead shooting

Dante Quinones, who was gunned down on Dartmouth

Dante Quinones, who was gunned down on Dartmouth Street in Hempstead on Sept 11, 2013. Photo Credit: Handout photo

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."

Latest Long Island News

Important message for Optimum customers

Your Newsday digital access is changing as of 10/1

You recently received an email from Optimum’s parent company, Altice USA, informing you that Altice will no longer offer free Newsday digital access with Optimum's online service. Through an exclusive trial offer for Optimum customers, Newsday is pleased to extend your digital access at no cost until the end of the year.

I understand, no thanks