A State Supreme Court jury deliberated barely over an hour Monday before finding a Buffalo man not guilty in a 2014 shooting that claimed the life of one man and wounded two women.
Lydell Jones Jr., 30, of High Street, had been charged with second-degree murder in the death of Victor Hernandez, 30, and with two counts of attempted murder in the wounding of two women.
Both sides in the case agreed that three people were shot at a small gathering in a backyard on Pershing Street at about 4 a.m. June 22, 2014.
Evidence showed that one person armed with an AK-47 assault rifle began firing into a group of people around a bonfire, and it appeared that Hernandez was the intended target.
The women who were wounded were sitting with their backs to the shooter, who was partly concealed by bushes when he began firing.
They testified that, after they were struck and had fallen to the ground, they saw that the subsequent gunfire was being directed at Hernandez.
“I looked over, and Victor was screaming,” Natasha Coleman testified last week in Justice Penny M. Wolfgang’s courtroom. As she described the frightening scene, Coleman held her hands up, imitating Hernandez as he reacted to the gunfire.
The jury had to consider whether Natasha Coleman and her friend, Stacy Ann Holmes, could identify the shooter.
Coleman saw the gun clearly, she said.
“He was holding it in both hands. It was a long gun,” she testified, and she saw flashes coming from the barrel.
However, it was more than a year before Coleman and Holmes identified Jones as the man who shot them and Hernandez.
Questioned by defense attorney Paul G. Dell about why she waited so long, Coleman said she was worried about the safety of her children.
Holmes, 43, testified that she didn’t identify the shooter initially because she was focused on recovering from her wounds. “My pelvis was blown out, my leg was almost blown off, I have a bullet in my back, and drop foot,” Holmes testified. “I was in the hospital for three months.”
By June 2015, she said, she was stronger and healing and “was ready to address it.”
Assistant District Attorney Christopher J. Belling also presented witnesses who testified that a probation ankle monitor that Jones was wearing put him in the vicinity of the party that night.
With no direct evidence that put a gun in Jones’ hands, and with identifications more than a year later, jurors returned a verdict of not guilty. Jones is still in jail on a probation violation.