Defense for Alleged Gunman Tries to Find Key Witness, Apparently Gone Into Hiding

Defense for Alleged Gunman Tries to Find Key Witness, Apparently Gone Into Hiding


By Mike Hedeen

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — After more than 50 prosecution witnesses and 300 pieces of evidence, it was believed attorneys would present closing arguments Tuesday morning in the murder trial of Johnny Blackshell, Junior.

Blackshell is charged with three counts of first-degree murder for the Aug. 2015 shooting on Genesee Street in Rochester. Three men were killed and four other people were founded.

Blackshell Jr. is alleged to have fired a stolen AK-47 from a moving car into a crowd leaving a basketball game at the Boys and Girls Club. Raekwon Manigault, Jonah Barley and Johnny Johnson all died from massive head injuries, according to testimony from former Monroe County Medical Examiner Dr. Caroline Dignan.

Instead of closings, defense attorney Joe Damielo asked Tuesday for an adjournment to locate a witness that has gone into hiding. Damelio says the witness is 17 years old and reluctant to testify.

A court order was issued Friday for this person to appear, but so far, he can’t been located. Damelio says State Police, the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, Rochester Police officers and another law enforcement agency outside the county are looking for the witness Damelio says is crucial to Blackshell’s defense.

“This potential witness, we’ll call him at this point in time because he’s not a witness yet on the witness stand,” explained Damelio, “anyways, he, a very short time within seconds after the shooting took place, he identifies someone else as the person who has the gun in his hand, not on Genesee Street, but very close to a street on Genesee immediately there after.”

Damelio said the witness picked Jalen Everett from a police photo lineup as the man he saw that night. Everett, 20, and Michael Mathis, 18, are also charged in the mass shooting and will be tried separately from Blackshell at a later time.

The prosecution did not object to a defense request for another day to find the witness, leaving that decision to Judge Doug Randall, who granted the request and gave Blackshell’s defense team until Wednesday morning to have this witness in court.

“The reason I didn’t object is, counsel put on the record that he believes this witness could potentially be beneficial to any case they may choose to put on,” said Perry Duckles, the prosecutor. “Certainly, when you’re trying a case that everybody’s put so much work in, you don’t want a higher court to review it and make some ruling that they weren’t afforded that opportunity.”

The defense says it may call other witnesses, but that depends on whether the 17-year-old can be located and testifies.

“We’re trying, we’ve been trying for a while. We have a location, we know where he’s at, if you’re going to ask me for the name, it’s too important and we really want this person to show up,” Damelio said.

A defense motion for dimissal was denied as Randall ruled the evidence points to Blackshell’s involvement in the shootings. There was also a motion to allow the jury to consider lesser charges of manslaughter 1 and manslaughter 2. Randall said he’ll rule on that Wednesday, when the case is expected to go to the jury.