Friday, August 10, 2001

Teen tells of street shootout

Interview tape played as judge decides trial venue

By Marie McCain
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Forty-eight hours after 2-year-old Devonte Ross was rushed to a hospital with a gaping bullet hole in his side, the teen accused of firing the bullet took a seat inside a police interview room.

        With his mother next to him, the Price Hill teen told investigators that the shots he'd fired July 20 had been meant for Dominic Mitchem.

        Mr. Mitchem, 24, had drawn a gun on him, robbed him and threatened to kill him if he ever showed up in an Over-the-Rhine park again, the teen told police.

        The 16-year-old, who is not being named because of his age, said Mr. Mitchem shot first that evening in Over-the-Rhine and that his responding gunfire was self-defense.

        He said he didn't find out until after he'd eluded Mr. Mitchem that a 2-year-old standing near the Vine Street shootout had been injured.

        “I went home,” he told police. “I just stayed home all night.”

        A tape of his statement was played Thursday before Hamilton County Juvenile Court Judge Thomas R. Lipps, who could decide next week whether the teen will be tried as an adult.

        The judge held off his decision, saying he'd wait until a psychiatric evaluation and other court-related interviews are completed.

        The teen, who turned 16 days after the shooting, will return to court Aug. 17. He faces two felonious assault charges and one count each of attempted murder, inducing panic and having a weapon under disability.

        Mr. Mitchem was arrested July 21 and is being held in lieu of $100,000 bond. He is charged with felonious assault, inducing panic and having a weapon under disability.

        Devonte's mother, Carmaletta “Coko” Ross testified Thursday that she believed her son's shooting was accidental.

        “I know it was an accident. There's no ifs, ands or buts. I know it was an accident,” she said, adding that her son has recovered but is still under a doctor's care.

        The teen told authorities that he got the gun from a 19-year-old cousin, who ran with him as he and Mr. Mitchem continued their shootout along Vine to 14th Street. At one point, he told investigators, the cousin took the gun from him and fired shots himself at Mr. Mitchem.

        No charges have been filed against the teen's cousin. But Hamilton County Prosecutor Mike Allen said, “The matter is still open for review. No final decision has been made on charges and (they) could be filed at any time.”

        After the hearing, the teen's mother, Joyce Ginyard, said she thought it would be wrong to try her son as an adult.

        “I understand he needs to be punished for what he did, but he's still a child and should be treated as a child. Right is right and wrong is wrong. And I feel like something good is going to come out of this.”


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