FORT WAYNE – It appeared 23-year-old Dontay Martin was barely engaged in his trial: He rarely looked up from writing on a pad of paper. He did not testify, nor did he look at the judge or jury when verdicts were read.
But members of his family and friends assembled in the Allen Superior courtroom did react, wiping tears from their eyes as Judge John Surbeck read the word guilty nine times – for four counts of attempted murder, two counts of criminal recklessness and one count each of carrying a handgun without a license, criminal gang activity and battery with a deadly weapon causing injury.
Martin could face almost 200 years in prison when he is sentenced next month.
Martin was one of two men arrested and charged in connection with the September shooting attack on an ambulance and another vehicle following behind it.
Traneilous L. Jackson, 24, was also charged and pleaded guilty last week to charges of seven of nine charges against him, including four counts of attempted murder.
Nineteen bullets penetrated the walls and glass of the ambulance and 18 more tore through the doors of the Chevrolet Impala following behind.
A Three Rivers Ambulance Authority advanced EMT was injured by bullet fragments and shrapnel inside the ambulance. All three passengers in the trailing car suffered gunshot wounds – one woman was hit at least six times. Two of the women were sisters of the patient in the ambulance, and the other a friend.
The patient in the ambulance – Jermaine Loyall – had been stabbed in a fight inside Club V at the Piere’s nightclub complex. Jackson punched Loyall after he felt he had been disrespected inside the club. After the fight, when Loyall was loaded into the ambulance, Jackson, Martin and one other man got into a car driven by Alfonso Chappell and gave chase.
Neither Chappell nor the fourth man has been charged in connection with the shootings. Both Chappell and Jackson testified against Martin during the three-day trial. Jackson’s testimony was required as part of a plea agreement that caps his prison sentence at 60 years, according to court documents.
Testimony on Wednesday included forensic evidence, such as the shell casings found at the scene and DNA evidence linking Martin to one of the handguns used in the shootings. Jurors also saw a photograph of a bullet hole in a car seat where one of the women had been sitting, missing by such a small margin it pulled strands of her hair into the seat with it.
Martin’s defense attorney, Jeff Raff, presented no evidence during the trial, relying on his opening and closing statements and cross-examination of the witnesses. He argued Martin may have been reckless in firing the weapon, but in no way intended to kill the people inside the two vehicles.
But Allen County Deputy Prosecutor Jason Custer told the jury Martin’s intent to kill was clear by his actions.
We’re lucky, Custer said. Not because he’s reckless, but because he’s an incompetent murderer.
Pulling a Glock 9 mm handgun out of the evidence box and holding it up for the jury to see, Custer said there was no question of Martin’s intent. Custer pounded his fist on the podium 20 times as he held out the handgun – demonstrating in a small way the violence of the encounter.
We avoided being a community of a mass killing, Custer told the jury. But we only missed it by a hair.
More than a dozen Allen County police officers, including Sheriff Ken Fries, were on hand in the courtroom when the verdicts were read. According to testimony, Martin, Jackson and Chappell were members of the local M.O.B. street gang.
A number of young men milled around the Courthouse during the trial, waving at Martin when he was led back and forth from the courtroom. During the trial, they slouched or napped in courtroom seats.
As he was led out, a few in the group called out to him. Martin only responded with repeated chants of Allahu Akbar or God is great, a phrase used commonly in Islam.