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Youth shown admitting role in beatings

"Do you think we killed him?" Billy Ammons asked his friends as they drove away from a Fort Lauderdale park where they had left a homeless man who had been bludgeoned with baseball bats.

Because Norris Gaynor, 45, didn't move when Ammons shot him with a paintball gun, he figured Gaynor had died, according to Ammons' statement to police.

Gaynor did not survive. Ammons, 20, and two other young men are charged with first-degree murder in Gaynor's death and two counts of attempted murder in the beatings of two other homeless men.

As his videotaped statements to Fort Lauderdale police were shown in court Thursday, Ammons squinted to watch, occasionally lowering his head and at times turning his back to the room and crying.

Ammons' lawyer, Sam Halpern, wants Broward Circuit Judge Cynthia Imperato to suppress some of his client's statements to police because he asserts that Ammons was not properly informed of his Miranda rights. Thursday's hearing was part of that effort.

After initially denying all involvement in the attacks, Ammons admitted to detectives that he was present during the first two attacks on Jan. 12, 2006.

In a subsequent interrogation, he acknowledged using a golf club in the last of three homeless beatings during a violent one-night spree.

FIRST ATTACK

The first of those attacks, on Jacques Pierre, was captured on a surveillance video that was played around the world.

In the taped assault, two teens are seen kicking a prone homeless man and flailing at him with a baseball bat.

At the time of Ammons' initial interrogation -- a day after the attacks -- investigators believed they had identified the two teens visible in the video.

They believed them to be Brian Hooks, 20, and Thomas Daugherty, 19, acquaintances of Ammons who had quickly left town after the beating became a staple on television.

Investigators sought corroboration from Ammons.

Initially he demurred.

"I don't believe in violence like that, " he said. "There is no reason for it."

Cloistered for several hours with a detective who repeatedly accused him of lying, he changed his story.

Afterward, Ammons talked to his stepfather, Dave Franklin, and expressed his remorse -- a chat that was also videotaped.

"I feel like I want to die right now, " he said.

Later, he told his stepfather: "I'm just saying, if I end up in jail for a long time, then I'm going to do it."

At the time of the first interrogation, no one had been arrested in the beatings.

In a subsequent interrogation days later, Ammons admitted to shooting Gaynor with the paintball gun.

GOLF CLUB

He also provided more information about the beating of Raymond Perez on the grounds of Church by the Sea in Fort Lauderdale.

"I didn't use a weapon, " Ammons said. "I used myself, my feet and stuff."

Questioned further, he said, "All right, I had a golf club."

It was a driver.

"I went up like a putter and I hit him in the ass, " he said, swinging his arm to demonstrate.

"I hit him and he tried to like get up and everything. Then we ran back to the truck."

Trials of the three young men have yet to get under way.

Members of the news media were able to see the taped interrogation only after a court fight.

RULING CHANGES

Imperato initially ruled that members of the media and public would not be allowed to attend the hearing at which the statement was played.

But she changed her decision Thursday morning after an attorney representing The South Florida Sun-Sentinel filed an emergency motion challenging the ban on news media.

As a result of her latest ruling, the media was allowed to view but not copy the DVD.

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