ADVERTISEMENT

Minneapolis murder case touches off street clash

  • Article by: ABBY SIMONS
  • Star Tribune
  • August 29, 2012 - 10:18 PM

A Hennepin County district judge on Wednesday refused to reduce bail for the teen accused of killing 5-year-old Nizzel George, citing the volatility of the highly charged case.

Moments later, members of the slain boy's family scuffled with the suspect's supporters on a busy downtown street, prompting officers to intervene outside the Hennepin County Government Center.

"I do believe there's been a high degree of tension, not only with the case but with the court appearances," District Judge Daniel Mabley said, denying a motion by 17-year-old Stephon Shannon's attorney to reduce his bail from $2 million to $50,000 or $100,000 with strict conditions.

If Shannon were released, Mabley said, "Not only the defendant himself may be in danger, but others may be as well."

Shannon is accused of fatally shooting Nizzel in the back June 26 as the boy slept on his grandmother's couch in north Minneapolis.

He was indicted as an adult earlier this month on first-degree murder charges in the boy's death and has remained jailed since his July 2 arrest.

After the hearing ended, relatives of Nizzel hurled insults at Shannon's family at 7th Street and 4th Avenue S. as victim advocates pleaded with them to calm down and a dozen deputies and security guards rushed to prevent a fight.

"I'm gonna end up dead too," wailed Nizzel's mother, Christina Banks, as Shannon's family sped away jeering. "It's a sad story, and it's never gonna end."

It wasn't the first time that Shannon's security-laden court appearances had turned ugly following outbursts from supporters on both sides, inside and out of the courtroom.

Shannon, dressed in an orange jail jumpsuit, stood quiet and attentive between his attorneys during Wednesday's hearing, flashing a smile to family members as they called out to him at the end of the proceeding.

Shannon 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 home and firing multiple rounds through the front wall, striking Nizzel once in the back. Police reports indicate the shooting was related to a longstanding violent feud between two gangs. The younger teenager has been charged as a juvenile.

On Wednesday, Assistant Hennepin County Attorney Susan Crumb was arguing a motion when a man from Nizzel's side spat an expletive at Shannon's supporters. They responded in kind as deputies chased the man out the door.

Before the hearing ended, Nizzel's family called Shannon a "baby killer" as they walked out and defied Mabley's orders to remain quiet until the hearing was over. Nizzel's father, Cornelius George, ignored a deputy's order to remove a baseball cap emblazoned with "RIP Nizzel." No one was arrested.

Although Mabley denied defense attorney David Desmidt's motion for a reduction in bail, he allowed Shannon to review investigators' files so that he can assist in his own defense.

The sides will return to court Oct. 22 to argue a defense motion challenging the constitutionality of the first-degree murder indictment following a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that ruled life sentences without parole for juveniles were unconstitutional. A first-degree murder conviction carries a mandatory life sentence.

Abby Simons • 612-673-4921

© 2014 Star Tribune