A young Niagara Falls man pleaded guilty in Niagara County Court Friday to second-degree murder, admitting that he and a co-defendant orchestrated the attempted and shooting that led to the death of Niagara University student Brandon Johnson on Dec. 8, 2011.
Gordon N. Jackson, 18, of Lockport Street, Niagara Falls, fired the fatal shot, authorities said. Cordero R. Gibson, 20, drove Jackson to the scene -- an off-campus apartment on University Court -- and entered the apartment with Jackson, according to Deputy District Attorney Doreen M. Hoffman.
Johnson, 20, a Niagara University junior from Rochester, was hanging out with friends that night, about a mile from the university, in a complex that houses many NU students.
Jackson, 17 at the time of the crime, went to the scene with four others. Jackson and a companion, who knew at least one of the people in the apartment, were let in. Jackson later left the apartment and went to the car and returned with a sawed-off shotgun, in an attempt to rob the people in the apartment, authorities said.
Jackson fired one shot, killing Johnson. Police said they believe Johnson was targeted.
Further details of the shooting, as well as the motive, were not released Friday.
Niagara County Court Judge Sara Sheldon Farkas said Jackson's sentence will be capped at 21 years to life when he is sentenced on Aug. 15. He remains in jail in lieu of $500,000 bail. Gibson is scheduled to appear in court on Monday. He is being held in lieu of $200,000 bail.
Members of both the victim's and Jackson's families were in court Friday.
Deputy District Attorney Doreen M. Hoffman asked Wanda and Freddie Johnson, the parents of the victim, if they would be willing to meet with Jackson's parents outside of court.
The two mothers hugged and broke into tears.
"We don't have any hate. We don't hate him, we hate what he did," Freddie Johnson said of Jackson.
The victim's father said he feels compassion for the family of Jackson. "He's someone's son, too."
Johnson's father said his son had hoped to become an accountant.
"He was just at the wrong place at the wrong time, just visiting some friends," Wanda Johnson said.
Darnise and Gordon A. Jackson offered sympathy to the Johnsons.
"I feel bad for their family and I feel bad my son was involved," Darnise Jackson said. "I feel the same pain she does and I am praying for their family."
"He was a good kid and he just got caught up," the mother added.
Jackson and Gibson had been charged initially with two counts of second-degree murder, two counts each of first-degree armed robbery, and single counts of criminal possession of a weapon and second-degree criminal use of a firearm.