Tensions flare at hearing for suspect in 5-year-old's killing

  • Article by: MATT MCKINNEY , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 11, 2012 - 1:14 AM

Six sheriff's deputies were on hand to maintain control at court hearing for 17-year-old accused of killing Nizzel George, 5.

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Christina Banks, outside the home Friday where 5-year-old son Nizzel George was shot to death.

Photo: Renee Jones Schneider, Star Tribune

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The court hearing for Stephon T. Shannon on Friday morning was brief, just minutes, but it was enough to reignite a simmering feud that people on both sides say they don't want.

"Who you looking at, little bitch?" shouted Christina Banks, the mother of slain 5-year-old Nizzel George. This was just minutes before the hearing started, as Banks walked out of the courtroom to take a phone call.

It wasn't clear who she was talking to, but her comments were directed at Shannon's family and friends, who sat on the opposite side of the room.

The tensions flared at a hearing a day after a Hennepin County grand jury indicted Shannon on first-degree murder charges in the death of Nizzel, who was shot as he slept on his grandmother's couch. Shannon has been held on $2 million bond since his arrest July 2.

Shannon, 17, and a 15-year-old boy, identified in court papers by his street name, "Funny Mo," are accused of going to Nizzel's family's house in north Minneapolis on June 26 and firing multiple rounds through the front wall, striking Nizzel once in the back. An internal Minneapolis police report indicates the tensions that led to the shooting relate to a long-standing violent feud between two north Minneapolis gangs.

It was the second shooting in six months to claim a young boy in north Minneapolis. Terrell Mayes Jr., 3, was killed when someone fired a gun Dec. 26 in an alley near his home. The bullet eventually passed through the Mayes family's house, striking Terrell in the head. His killing remains unsolved.

At Friday's hearing, Banks eventually returned to the courtroom, followed by several Hennepin County sheriff's deputies.

She took a front-row seat as Shannon, wearing an orange prisoner's jumpsuit, was led into the courtroom. He stood with his arms crossed, looking back at his friends and family once while Judge Daniel Mabley talked about the case. Mabley made note of the indictment, then ordered Shannon's case continued until later this month. His alleged accomplice has also been charged as a juvenile in the killing and may later be charged as an adult.

Six deputies lined the courtroom for the remainder of Shannon's hearing. As soon as it was done, they sprang into action, allowing the victim's family to leave the building before any of Shannon's friends or family were allowed to exit.

Outside the courthouse, older adults from both families said they wanted nothing to do with the feud.

"They need to chill out," said Tony Jones, who was sitting with Shannon's family.

A woman who said she was a cousin to the George family claimed that Banks has been ridiculed by friends and family members of her son's alleged killer.

"They don't have the right to antagonize her at all," said Sidney Honeycutt, as she led Banks and other members of the family away from the courthouse. "Right now we just want it to be a trial."

Matt McKinney • 612-673-7329

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