By Ed Brock
A rivalry between two Clayton County gangs led to a shootout that ended the life of a 4-year-old boy.
That was the gist of more than three hours of testimony from a Riverdale detective and several agents with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, at a preliminary hearing Thursday morning for two men and a teen-ager charged with felony murder in the shooting death of Trevon Wilson.
Clayton County police are also part of the task force investigating the shooting.
After the testimony was heard Clayton County Magistrate Court Judge Gloria Reed dismissed the charges against one of the men, 18-year-old Jenario Clayton of Riverdale, who was also the last person arrested in the case. The cases against 22-year-old Deontrez Williams of Fayetteville and 16-year-old Xavious Cerdera Taylor were bound over to a grand jury for indictment consideration.
The testimony also indicated that Wilson was probably killed by a bullet from a rifle, and police have witnesses that may place that rifle in the hands of one individual, a gang member identified only as "Big C."
The first witness in the case, Riverdale police Detective Vincent Ficalore, said that, based on an interview with Taylor that he watched on video, the shootout on June 6 in which Wilson was killed occurred between a gang known as the Hit Squad and another gang called the Southside Mafia.
A fight had been scheduled for that day between the two groups and Williams and Taylor supposedly went to Riverdale Park on Church Street to meet with the leader of the Southside Mafia to stop the fight, Ficalore said. When they arrived at the park they saw 20 to 30 people standing in the woods line at one end of the park and at one point the people in the woods line opened fire.
Taylor told police that he returned fire with one of two handguns Williams and he had brought with them.
Ficalore also said that the evidence indicated that the bullet that killed Wilson as his grandmother tried to carry him to safety came from the direction of the woods line.
GBI Special Agent Sam Baity said that when the shooting started Wilson and his grandmother were walking near the road. The grandmother grabbed the boy and began trying to carry him up a nearby embankment, but a bullet went through her wrist and into Wilson's body.
Baity said he had interviewed Williams and identified him as the leader of the Hit Squad, a statement that was met by laughter from Williams. He said Williams had gone to the park to stop a fight between a Southside Mafia member and his cousin, a fight that Baity said was "over a girl."
"A good number of people had gone to the park to see this fight," Baity said. "It was going to be a brawl."
It was likely a rifle round that killed Wilson, Baity said, and he also said it probably came from the direction of the woods line where he said members of the Southside Mafia were standing.
Among the various shell casings that had been recovered from the park, some belonged to a rifle and five or six rifle slugs were found on the embankment on which Wilson had been shot, GBI Special Agent Kelli Bowles said in her testimony.
Also, other witnesses had told investigators that they had seen a rifle at the scene of the shooting on the day of the gun battle and one had seen a member of the Southside Mafia, whom she called "Big C," firing the rifle.
Police have recovered the guns Williams and Taylor used in the gunfight but have not recovered a rifle, according to the testimony.
In his cross-examination of Baity, Taylor's attorney, Melvyn Williams, asked why nobody from the Southside Mafia had been arrested. Baity said that Clayton was a member of the Southside Mafia and that more arrests are expected.
Clayton initially told police that he had been at the park but had gone to the store when the shooting started, said GBI Special Agent Bryant Hill in his testimony. But when Hill interviewed Clayton he changed his story, saying he was in the park with 50 or 60 members of the Southside Mafia when the shooting started. Clayton said he dropped to the ground, afraid of being shot by either side. In the interview, Hill said, Clayton called the Hit Squad and the Southside Mafia rap groups.
Agreeing with Clayton's attorney, Rolph Jones, that none of the testimony put a gun in Clayton's hand, Clayton Reed dismissed the charges against him, urging him to help police with their investigation. Clayton's stepfather, Nic Walker of Riverdale, said Clayton's mother, Mavis Goggins, and he would also encourage him to cooperate with the investigation.
"I really feel like he has nothing to hide and that's why we want to encourage him to help the police," Walker said.
Walker said Clayton just hung around with the Southside Mafia to work on his skills as a rapper. Goggins said she was "just thankful" that her son had been released.
"I've been telling my baby to pray," Goggins said. "I knew he'd done nothing wrong."
Also, the sister of a man named repeatedly in the testimony as the leader of one of the gangs involved in the shootout, but who has not been charged, insists her brother was at home during the shootout. She said also said that the Southside Mafia was not a gang, but was a rap group and that she was its manager.
At two vigils held in memory of Wilson members of the Riverdale community called for something to be done about the gang problem in the area.
"We can't stop with just holding candles," Riverdale Mayor Phaedra Graham said at a vigil at the park on Wednesday night. "This city belongs to all of us."
This morning Clayton County Sheriff Stanley Tuggle will meet with police chiefs in the county and other officials for a roundtable discussion of the gang situation.