New evidence in the 2016 drive-by shooting of 2-year-old Le’Vonte King Jason Jones in north Minneapolis is pointing police back toward a man long suspected of pulling the trigger, but never charged.
The man was first arrested more than two years ago on suspicion of shooting Le’Vonte, whose death provoked an outcry across the city. He was later released after prosecutors said they found insufficient evidence to charge him.
For now, the case remains officially unsolved. The Star Tribune generally does not name suspects before they are charged
According to police, Le’Vonte and his 15-month-old sister were riding in a van driven by their mother’s boyfriend, Melvonte Peterson, who stopped at a red light at the intersection of Penn and Lowry avenues next to a Chevy Impala being driven by a gang rival.
While it’s unclear who fired first, police say Peterson and the suspect exchanged gunfire, with the other man firing two shots. One of those struck Le’Vonte in the chest and other grazed his sister’s leg. Several of the rounds fired by Peterson struck a nearby hardware store.
A search warrant application filed Tuesday in Hennepin County District court suggests police have obtained new GPS data from cellphones belonging to the Peterson, the suspect and two witnesses who were reportedly with the suspect during and after the shooting. The application says detectives have spoken with the two witnesses, who identified the suspect as the one who fired the fatal shots.
The 33-year-old suspect is in a federal prison in Illinois serving a sentence for weapons possession, court records show.
At his sentencing late last year, the man said that his arrest in the Jones shooting was a case of mistaken identity, telling the judge that in the ensuing months he and his family were repeated targets of police harassment.
Peterson, who as a felon was prohibited from carrying firearms, was later convicted of illegally possessing a gun and sentenced to five years in prison.
Prosecutors initially charged Peterson with murder, manslaughter and neglect, but a judge later threw out the murder charges, saying that holding him responsible for Le’Vonte’s death “defies common sense.”
He is scheduled for release after serving a little more than three years.