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Suspect admits he killed man

LOCKPORT -- Christopher C. Johnson admitted Thursday that he killed a man by shooting him in the head, but he took it all in stride.

"Make sure you tell them that I'm still the chief," Johnson, 20, told a reporter as he was led away from Niagara County Court following his guilty plea to a reduced charge of first-degree manslaughter.

"The man is just a devil. He's a child of Satan," said Velma Jessie, mother of the victim, Kareem C. Johnson, who was no relation to the killer. "Any time you can bend over somebody, and they're pleading for their life and you shoot them in the head, you wouldn't do that to a cat or a dog. You don't value human life."

Johnson's plea deal includes a guaranteed 18-year prison sentence -- he faced 25 years to life if he had been convicted of murder in a trial that was to begin Jan. 22 -- and dismissal of four other charges against him. The official sentencing is set for March 15.

When Niagara County Judge Peter L. Broderick Sr. asked him to explain how he committed the crime, Johnson shot back, "What do you want to know?"

"His nickname is 'Crazy Chris,' " said court-appointed defense attorney Anthony J. Lana. "His behavior can be irrational."

Lana said the plea deal "brings closure to five felonies, four of them violent felonies, with a possibility of life [in prison] at the back end."

Johnson, 20, of Peckham Street, Buffalo, formerly of Depot Avenue in Niagara Falls, will not have to face charges of burglary and grand larceny pending in Niagara Falls; an assault charge stemming from the beating of a fellow inmate in Niagara County Jail; and an indictment charging him with threatening a witness in the homicide case.

"We offered a plea based on the totality of the data available to us," said Second Assistant District Attorney Holly E. Sloma. "It's always easy to ask 'Why manslaughter one?' after a defendant admits shooting the victim in the head . . .

"We never had that admission from Christopher Johnson."

Lana pointed out that Kareem Johnson had "a curved, 9- or 10-inch knife" in his hand when he died, as shown in crime scene photos.

Kareem Johnson, 34, of Niagara Street, Niagara Falls, was shot to death Feb. 17 on Ninth Street near Ferry Avenue in Niagara Falls.

"There was an earlier attempt at shooting Kareem Johnson," Sloma said. Christopher Johnson shot at Kareem Johnson earlier that night but only grazed him. In their second confrontation, Kareem was felled by a bullet to the shoulder and then dispatched with a head shot as he lay on the sidewalk.

Christopher Johnson said, "He was chasing my man with a knife." Sloma said Johnson was referring to a juvenile associate of his.

"I shot him once," Johnson continued. "He was yelling and screaming." When Kareem said something about Christopher going to jail for shooting him, "I put the gun to the side of his head and pulled the trigger."

The victim's mother and a male friend gasped and ran out of the courtroom.

Jessie said, "I didn't really like [the plea bargain]," but she was persuaded by the prosecutor. "If [Johnson] gets out," she predicted, "he'll do it again."


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