A judge denied bond Thursday for the Chester teen prosecutors say was the triggerman among five gang members charged in connection with the November shooting death of Chester City Councilman Odell Williams.
Circuit Court Judge Dan Hall’s ruling came amid a contentious hearing, during which Hall threatened to have disruptive members of Christopher Moore’s family removed from the courtroom.
After hearing from prosecutors that at the time Williams was killed, Moore was armed with an assault rifle, was on probation for a previous conviction, and was free on bond on a burglary charge after allegedly stealing a gun, Hall called Moore, now 19, both “a danger to the community” and a “potential flight risk.”
Williams’ daughter, Lana Williams, pleaded with Hall to keep Moore in jail.
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“Is it OK for an 18-year-old to roam around Chester with an assault rifle?” she asked. “No.”
When Moore’s supporters and family, who filled two rows of seats in the courtroom, started to voice displeasure over the decision to deny bond – and an earlier mention of allegations that Williams shot at Moore and the defendants first – Hall warned them that he would have them removed or held in contempt of court if he heard another outburst.
Moore’s family has been vocal for months that Williams, 69, a retired police officer, started the incident by chasing the men who were later arrested and shooting at them. Williams was under indictment at the time of his death, charged with threatening Chester’s police chief.
The murder case has now turned into a public war of words between law enforcement and the suspects’ lawyers over how bad the gang problem really is in Chester County and whether Moore is being made a scapegoat for police, who have publicly declared war on gang violence.
Moore’s lawyer, Sixth Circuit deputy public defender William Frick, claimed in court that Moore has been targeted by Chester authorities and the news media’s extensive coverage of the case. Just last week, some Chester leaders who are part of a county gang task force questioned whether there really is a gang problem, saying gang crimes make up less than 2 percent of total crime.
Because of the wave of publicity, Frick said, Moore likely can’t get a “fair resolution” or a “fair trial” in Chester County.
“My client has been made into a political football in a so-called war on gangs in Chester County,” he said.
Sheriff Alex Underwood declared that “war on gangs” when Moore and four others were arrested in November. Underwood said gangs had made death threats against him, his deputies and their families.
But the report by a task force created by the Chester County Council found there is little or no gang problem in the county despite:
▪ The shooting death of Williams, which investigators have said was committed by members of the Roundtree Circle gang;
▪ The murder of an unarmed 16-year-old boy, gunned down by a member of the same gang who pleaded guilty and was sent to prison;
▪ Several other violent crimes police and prosecutors have linked to gang activity.
Moore has been in jail since mid-November, when he was charged with shooting Williams in the head with an assault rifle after Williams chased him and other Roundtree Circle gang members through Chester.
Prosecutors say Williams’ wife was concerned about a truck filled with gang members and that the members had targeted a rival gang for an armed robbery. Williams intervened, they said, and chased the suspects through Chester and surrounding areas for at least two miles, firing at least two shots at them.
The suspects and their lawyers claim – from statements made by one of the suspects who confessed to police – that Williams shot at them first. However, Sixth Circuit deputy solicitor Julie Gamburg Hall said prosecutors have heard conflicting versions of when Williams fired the two shots during the chase.
When Williams was killed, Hall said, Moore and the other “documented gang members” were “armed to the gills” with the intent to rob the rival gang. Moore lay in wait after part of the chase, she said, then shot Williams.
Moore’s blood was found on the rifle believed to be the murder weapon and at the scene of the shooting, Hall said.
But Frick claimed in court that DNA evidence found on the trigger guard of the rifle does not match Moore’s. He said the confession by co-defendant Terrance Buchanan, alleging that Moore was the shooter, is “self-serving.”
Frick also claimed that Moore, if he was the shooter, had “every right to self-defense,” because Williams shot first.
Moore and four others police say are members of the Roundtree Circle gang are charged in the crime, but only Moore is charged with murder.
The other alleged gang members are accused of accessory before or after the murder:
▪ Quinton McClinton, 26, is in state prison after pleading guilty to drug charges earlier this year.
▪ Derrick Dixon, 20, who is free on bond, was shot in the leg two weeks ago at a home in Chester. Police have not charged anyone in that shooting.
▪ Terrance Buchanan, 25, who allegedly gave police the statements about the Williams crime, is free on bond pending trial.
▪ DeAngelo Roseboro, 20, had been free on bond, but a judge revoked his bond in March after ruling that he went to a Waffle House in violation of a court-imposed curfew.
Andrew Dys • 803-329-4065