In the two years since Ramel Gittens’ murder, there have been street memorials, music video tributes, and relative peace between rival gangs. There has not yet been justice, though–only theories and rumors.
But the words on the street about who shot Gittens will finally be tested in a courtroom. The trial for Shawn Jones, the 26-year-old accused of pulling the trigger, is scheduled to begin on Tuesday.
See our cover story on the murder’s aftermath: The Gang War That Wasn’t
Police arrested Jones the day after a gunshot killed Gittens as he entered the hallway of his Redfern Houses apartment building in July 2011. Within days, tensions heated between the rival sets associated with each man.
Gittens lived in the front of Redfern, territory of the Hassocc Boys, who repped Crips. Jones lived in the back of Redfern, an area controlled by the 1270 Gangbangers, who flew the Bloods flag. There had been decades of conflict between the guys from the front the those from the back.
One theory was that some guys from the front had recently jumped Jones, and that Jones shot Gittens in retaliation. Another theory was that Jones was going after Gittens because of a 20-year-old beef between their relatives.
Either way, locals feared that the murder would light the fuse for a gang war that had lain dormant for a few years.
Jones denies being the shooter, says his lawyer, David Bart. Bart also contests the allegation that Jones is a gang member.
Prosecutors have sought to use Jones’ police statement to show his affiliations. Twenty minutes after the crime, NYPD officer Chris Kearney stopped and questioned Jones across the street from Gittens’ building. According to the Kearney’s report, Gittens said that he “got into a fight and got locked up last night. He is a Blood and that he had beef with the guys from the other side… someone threatened to shoot him.” Jones also told the officer that he knew nothing about the shooting and had been outside all night.
The defense has challenged the merits of Kearney’s interpretation of what Jones said.
And during pretrial stages, the judge ruled to suppress Jones’ statements that he was in a gang.
As we noted in our August feature story on the murder, a court date can sometimes rip off the scab that forms over the wound of a death. On the day of Jones’ arraignment, in October 2011, a car nearly ran over two of his relatives. Folks on Jones’ side believed that Gittens’ side was behind the incident.
Send story tips to the author, Albert Samaha