MILWAUKEE -- Three Milwaukee men are now charged in connection with the shooting death of Za’layia Jenkins. Jenkins is the nine-year-old girl who was shot while sitting inside her home near 15th and Meinecke on May 5, 2016.
"We are grateful it's come to fruition," said Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn during a media availability on Monday afternoon, August 14th.
The suspects include Otha Brown, Tony Powell Jr. and Damonta Jennings. They are each facing one count of first degree reckless homicide (As a party to a crime, use of a dangerous weapon). Jennings is not in custody. He is being sought on warrants -- and has open felony cases for armed robbery and possession of heroin with intent to deliver.
Jenkins was struck by a stray bullet during a “shootout” between two groups of armed individuals while inside a home.
"There were approximately 14 bullet strikes to the house. Three individuals in a car got out of the car and apparently got in an exchange of gunfire with somebody who had exited the house that Za'layia was in," Flynn said.
According to the criminal complaint, officers on May 5th, 2016 were dispatched to a shooting complaint in the area of 15th and Meinecke. Upon arrival, officers entered a home at that location and found a young girl, later identified as Za’layia Jenkins, lying on the floor bleeding. She was transported to Children's Hospital.
An autopsy revealed Jenkins had suffered a gunshot wound to the head. Her death was ruled a homicide.
The complaint indicates detectives found spent cartridge casings in two locations in the area, about a block apart. In the first location, near the front exterior of a home on the corner of 16th and Meinecke, officials found thirteen .40 caliber casings. In the second location, near the front exterior of a home on the corner of 15th and Meinecke, officials found sixteen 7.62 x 39 mm casings, twelve .223 caliber casings, ten 5.56 mm casings, and seven .40 caliber casings.
The complaint indicates detectives found 14 bullet strikes on the house Za’layia Jenkins lived in.
According to the criminal complaint, several citizens reported hearing shots and seeing all or part of the shootings. One witness states that she lives in the same building as Za’layia Jenkins, who is her relative. She said that she was outside the house and saw a white Malibu stop in the area and conduct what appeared to be a drug transaction with another car that stopped. The witness called out to the Malibu, telling its occupants not to be selling drugs there. The Malibu allegedly drove off, made a u-turn and came back. The driver displayed a handgun and said, “I serve anyone I want to in front of any house I want to!” The witness then ran inside. She soon heard shots and learned that Za’layia Jenkins had been shot.
Another witness was on the block when he saw a man who resides at the home near 15th and Meinecke chasing after a white Malibu and firing shots at it. The witness claims to have seen the Malibu drive off and then return. He saw two men from the Malibu, each with an “SK,” shooting at the house near 15th and Meinecke.
The complaint indicates on August 7th, 2017 Otha Brown gave a statement to detectives -- admitting to participating in the shooting. He said that on that date, he was the rear passenger in a white car being driven by defendant Damonta Jennings. Defendant Tony Powell was the front passenger.
According to the criminal complaint, "Brown said that the three of them stopped in the area of 15th and Meinecke so Jennings could conduct a drug sale. A woman from the house scolded them. Jennings argued with the woman, who then called a man from inside the residence. That man came out carrying a gun. They argued briefly and Jennings drove off. They heard gunshots and saw that the man who had exited the house was firing at them. Brown could hear and feel the car being struck. Jennings drove off, turned around, and stopped. They each got out with a firearm, walked towards the house, and fired numerous rounds towards the house."
The complaint indicates Brown admitted to firing an “AR,” Brown said that Powell was firing an “AK,” and that Jennings was firing a large pistol.
Za’layia Jenkins was pronounced dead the day before what would have been her 10th birthday.
"In the nearly 10 years I've been here, 12 children under the age of 14 have been murdered by firearms," Flynn said on Monday. "This is obviously another dreadful example of the devastating toll that mindless violence takes on the young people of Milwaukee."
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett issued the following statement in the wake of the charges being filed:
"In May of last year, nine year old Za’layia Jenkins was watching television in her living room when bullets tore through the front of her home. Za’layia suffered a gunshot wound to the head and days later, just before her tenth birthday, Za’layia died.
Today, three Milwaukee men have been charged with firing the shots that killed Za’layia. The men face charges of first-degree reckless homicide, being parties to a crime and use of a dangerous weapon.
It has already been a tragically long year for Za’layia’s mom, Destiny Boone, and the family members and friends who have prayed and waited for justice.
Za’layia’s future was taken from her and her family. The gun totting criminals who indiscriminately shot up a neighborhood and took her young life deserve the full force of the criminal justice system and a future behind bars.
The pain of losing a child never truly subsides but it is my hope that today’s announcement will provide some measure of relief to Za’layia’s family, friends and our Milwaukee Community."