A teen nicknamed “JuJu” was sitting on the steps of a North Miami-Dade apartment building when two young men emerged from a black car.
“Seen someone with a gun in his hand, firing at me,” the 17-year-old, Juwuan Ray, told a judge during a bail hearing on Friday. “Jumped up, started shoot back.”
A running gun battle unfolded. The car sped away as the shots finally fell silent. Ray scampered up the third floor of “The Colors” apartment complex, where his worried friend, Santonio Carter, ensured he was not hurt.
But then they realized that Carter’s 6-year-old son was nowhere to be found.
Testifying for the first time in public, Ray recounted the chaotic gun battle that felled King Carter in the crossfire — in a case that has sparked rallies to end gun violence that has claimed a string of youths across the county.
He and Santonio Carter scoured the grounds of the building on 1400 block of Northwest 103rd Street in February. It was Santonio Carter who discovered his son — the boy had been on his way to the market to buy candy. As Ray testified, Santonio Carter stormed out of court, pushing the door open loudly, overcome with emotion.
“He found him first,” Ray continued. “In front of the rental office door. Laying down, kind of on his side.”
Ray testified at a bail hearing for Leonard Adams, 18, one of three teens accused of killing King while trying to murder Ray. The bail hearing concluded Friday night with Circuit Judge Stephen Millan ruling that there was enough evidence to keep Adams behind bars before trial.
“No parent is supposed to outlive a child, not a 6-year-old child,” Millan said. “What nobody is talking about is that these are children shooting children. It’s a statement on the prevalence of violence in our society.”
During his testimony, the teen identified Adams, with distinct twisty braids, as one of his attackers. “I didn’t notice his face, but I realized what type of hair he have,” Ray said.
On cross-examination, defense lawyer David Ranck sought to cast doubt on Ray’s identification. Walking back from the witness stand, the attorney asked Ray to stop him when he got to the distance from which he saw Adams. Ranck entered the gallery, walked past a TV news camera, past the pews and out the double doors. “This far?” Ranck said. “Thirty to 40 feet — or more.”
Prosecutors have also charged Irwen Pressley, 18, who allegedly admitted that a 9mm handgun found at his home was used to shoot at Ray. The teen was on supervised release on a robbery charge — and cops managed to trace him to the scene because he was wearing a GPS ankle monitor, authorities said.
Exactly what sparked the battle remains unclear, even after Ray testified.
He testified that he did not know Adams or Pressley, but admitted he had borrowed a pistol that day before walking over to the apartments to hang out as he always did. Ray claimed he did not know of any specific threats looming over him.
“Just a feeling,” he said
But Pressley told police that there had been some sort of beef via Facebook. Ray claimed there was no squabble, although he admitted to posting a mocking post aimed at Adams and Pressley after the shooting.
Among other revelations at Friday’s hearing:
▪ A friend of Adams’ told police he lent the teen the Lexus believed used in the shooting. Adams’ mother, Tameka Thompson, was later arrested and accused of helping hide the bullet-riddled getaway car.
▪ Although whose bullet killed King — the projectile passed through the child’s body and was never found — remains unknown, prosecutors said Ray’s bullet could not be to blame because of where the boy was found, around two corners and out of range.
▪ Adams was nicked in the neck by a bullet, and checked into a hospital. He initially claimed that he had been struck by a stray bullet while waiting at a bus stop, Miami-Dade Detective Juan Segovia testified.
He later told authorities he’d driven Pressley to the scene, but insisted that he did not know the shooting was going to take place.
“The only thing Leonard Adams told me that was true was his name,” Segovia testified.