Alleged rifleman charged in slaying pleads not guilty

Lavonte D. Johnson (Source: Pulaski Co. (Ark.) Detention Center)
Lavonte D. Johnson (Source: Pulaski Co. (Ark.) Detention Center)(WIBW)
Published: Feb. 7, 2020 at 12:42 PM CST
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A 23-year-old man pleaded not guilty on Friday in the car-to-car fatal shooting of a motorist in southeast Topeka on July 25, 2019.

Lavonte Deshone Johnson, of Topeka, is to be tried starting on July 13 before a Shawnee County District Court jury.

Johnson is charged with premeditated first-degree murder of 16-year-old Joaquin McKinney, felony first-degree murder of McKinney, and criminal discharge of a firearm at an occupied vehicle, according to court records.

Johnson's trial is expected to require five days. District Court Judge Steven Ebberts is handling the trial.

Following an all-day preliminary hearing on November 12, Johnson; Zachary Jacob McFall, 16; and Danny Kaye Williams, 16, were bound over on two charges each of first-degree murder and one count of criminal discharge of a firearm at an occupied vehicle, a felony.

During the preliminary hearing, a witness identified one of three defendants as the gunman who sat on a car window sill and propped his arms on the car roof to fire a barrage of shots, one of which struck the driver of a car being pursued on S.E. 37th on July 25.

The shooting was captured on video by an ambulance hauling a patient unrelated to the shooting death.

The three defendants will be tried separately.

Williams and McFall originally were charged as juveniles, but their cases were moved to adult court. Each has pleaded not guilty, and each is scheduled to be tried.

A blue car was pursuing a white car eastbound on S.E. 37th at S.E. Adams at 3:39 p.m. on July 25 when the gunshot that killed McKinney was fired.

On July 25, Brad Wolfley was working as a city code compliance officer in the Hi-Crest and Rolling Meadows areas in southeast Topeka when he heard a single gunshot in the Betty Phillips Park about 200 yards away. Wolfley identified Johnson as the man who fired the rifle that mortally wounded McKinney.

Wolfley testified he heard two vehicle s traveling east on 37th at a high rate of speed, then he heard "a lot" of gunshots, perhaps 30 round. Wolfley saw a bullet pass through the white car's rear window, striking McKinney in the back of the head, he said.

At one point, Wolfley demonstrated how the rifleman sat on the car window sill and held the firearm, his left hand forward and his right hand tucked back as though cradling an imaginary rifle in a shooting position.