Two teens, 22-year-old to be tried in fatal Hi-Crest car-to-car shooting

Lavonte D. Johnson (Source: Pulaski Co. (Ark.) Detention Center)
Lavonte D. Johnson (Source: Pulaski Co. (Ark.) Detention Center)(WIBW)
Published: Nov. 12, 2019 at 1:39 PM CST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

Two 16-year-olds and an adult were bound over Tuesday to be tried on charges they killed a man during a car-to-car drive-by shooting that was captured on video by an ambulance hauling a patient unrelated to the shooting death.

Following an all-day preliminary hearing, Lavonte Deshone Johnson, 22; Zachary Jacob McFall, 16; and Danny Kaye Williams, 16, were bound over on three charges each of premeditated first-degree murder; felony first-degree murder, and criminal discharge of a firearm at an occupied vehicle. The criminal discharge offense is a felony.

The three are to be tried separately by individual judges. The three next will be in court on Thursday for hearings to schedule a series of hearings and trial dates.

Williams and McFall originally were charged as juveniles, but their cases were moved to adult court.

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.

During a preliminary hearing in Shawnee County District Court, Shawnee County District Court Judge David Debenham heard evidence in the death of Joaquin McKinney, who also was 16.

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 was worling on an assignment and paused at a car wash at 37th and Adams facing north toward 37th, and Adams was to the east of him.

Wolfley testified he heard two vehicle s traveling east on 37th at a high rate of speed.

"I heard several shots," Wolfley said. "It wasn't one, it wasn't two. It was a lot."

Wolfley saw a bullet pass through the white car's rear window, striking McKinney in the back of the head, he said. The white car coasted to a stop on the north side of 37th, and Wolfley drove to the car to aid the driver.

The driver's eyes were open, who was still alive, and a pistol was lying in the lap of the wounded driver, Wolfley said. Meanwhile, three passengers fled the white car.

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. Wolfley described seeing the gunman's hair blowing as he fired the rifle.

Wolfley said he didn't count the number of shots, but wouldn't be surprised if 30 were fired anbd described the rate of fire as "semiautomatic shots."

Other witnesses testified two groups of teens and younger men were supposed to meet at the Betty Phillips Park in the Hi-Crest area to have a fight to settle a dispute.

The white car driven by McKinney arrived at the park, but the other youths didn't show up. McKinney fired five shots in the air, then the white car left the area.

Earlier on Tuesday, Andrew Eisenbarger, an American Medical Response rescue worker, testified about seeing the two cars speeding eastbound on 37th as the AMR ambulance was approaching the intersection.

"I heard a series of pop, pop, pop, pops," Eisenbarger testified. "There was a white car being chased by a blue car."

Eisenbarger said he heard two volleys of gunshots separated by a brief pause. At least a dozen gunshots could be counted on the AMR security video. The white car coasted off 37th into a yard and came to a halt.

Three doors opened, and three passengers in the white car bolted from the vehicle, Eisenbarger testified.