For 3 ounces of marijuana, Javeas Cohn shot and killed his best friend.
Four months after he was arrested and charged with murder, Cohn stood before a judge, sniffling and fighting tears.
“Sometimes I wish I was in his place and he was in mine,” Cohn said before Circuit Court Judge John Hayes sentenced him to more than 16 years in prison in the March slaying of Brandon Davis, a 17-year-old former Clover High School student.
In a York County courtroom Friday morning, Cohn, 20, pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter, first-degree assault and battery, possession of a weapon during a violent crime, and distribution of marijuana. Cohn is one of five people who have been charged in connection with Davis’ death, the result of a drug deal that ended in gunfire.
On March 23, authorities were sent to the area between Colonial and Revere roads in the Glen at Clover mobile home community after receiving word about shots fired. On their way there, they learned that two shooting victims had gone to a mobile home on Gondola Lane, about a mile away.
When they arrived, they found Davis dead and his friend, Michael McAfee, 22, suffering from a gunshot wound in his leg, said Willy Thompson, deputy 16th Circuit solicitor.
Initially, McAfee lied to police about what happened, Thompson said, telling authorities he and Davis were shot at during a drive-by shooting. But investigators learned that Davis made arrangements with Ezekiel James Lundquist, 21, to purchase 3 ounces of marijuana. Joining him was Cohn, Tevin Dye, 20, and Lundquist’s girlfriend, Morgan Kalea Robinson, 19.
Davis and McAfee pulled up outside a mobile home as Lundquist walked to the car and showed them the drugs for sale. Once Davis got the drugs, he took off, Thompson said, prompting Cohn to fire shots at the speeding pickup truck. One of the bullets hit Davis, killing him, while McAfee was struck in the leg. McAfee jumped into the driver’s seat and drove them to a friend’s home, where they called police.
Once in custody, Cohn initially told deputes that Lundquist was the gunman, but fingerprints on the gun, as well as McAfee’s statements, implicated Cohn as the shooter.
Mark and Pamela Yukob, Davis’ grandparents who raised him from birth, told The Herald that Davis worked at TCI Mobility in Gastonia, N.C., and trained to become an electrician.
“He was proud of his job and liked to wear his uniform,” his aunt, Renee Whitney, said in court on Friday. His dream was to own a motorcycle repair shop. More than 300 people attended his funeral, she said, adding that Davis would never hang up the phone or leave home without telling his grandparents that he loved them.
“We will never again hear Brandon say, ‘I love you,’ ” Whitney said. “We will never see him get married ... have children.”
Davis’ family knew Cohn well and welcomed him into their home, she said.
“We considered him a friend to Brandon,” Whitney said.
That’s what Cohn considered Davis, as well, said Deputy 16th Circuit Public Defender B.J. Barrowclough, Cohn’s attorney. In fact, he never intended to kill Davis, but just scare him. Earlier that night, he had been smoking “high-grade” marijuana that came from California and was very “intoxicating.”
“Javeas has cried so much,” Barrowclough said, “because Brandon was his friend.”
Cohn and his mother both fell victim to domestic violence, Barrowclough said. Cohn, he added, also suffered from attention deficit disorder and deals with “unresolved issues with anxiety and insecurity.”
Barrowclough said his client “early in the process” decided that he wanted to plead guilty. The quick turnaround, he said, “is reflective of how bad Mr. Cohn feels about the death of his friend.”
During the hearing, Cohn cried. He looked back to his family, who sat feet away from him and also wept.
“I know I’m the one that did this,” Cohn sobbed. He asked Davis’ relatives to forgive him “one day – not today, a week or month from now.”
After sentencing, Loretta Dover, Cohn’s grandmother, said Davis and Cohn were very close, “together like everyday.”
Dover called Cohn a “well-mannered boy” and “everybody’s baby boy” among their family.
“I know he didn’t do this intentionally,” Dover said. “It was accidental. He panicked. He’s had a hard time dealing with the fact that he took Brandon’s life.”
Davis’ family declined to comment after the hearing because cases against Lundquist, Dye, McAfee and Robinson are still pending.