On July 16, 2011, a 19-year-old named Ramel Gittens was shot to death in the hallway of the Redfern housing project in Far Rockaway. Locals suspected that the murder was tied to a decades-long rivalry between young men who live in the front of the complex and those who live in the back. Gittens lived in the front, and many locals suspected that his killer was a 24-year-old named Shawn Jones, who lived in the back and had gotten jumped by rivals the previous night.
The tension that simmered after the killing was the subject of a cover story last summer, The Gang War That Wasn’t. The conflict had revolved around theories, rumors, word on the street. Over the last two and a half years, though, the charges against Jones have faced the scrutiny of a courtroom. And last week, the case reached a conclusion in Queens Supreme Court.
Jones pleaded guilty to first degree manslaughter.
As part of the plea deal, prosecutors dropped murder and gun charges.
Jones had been the primary suspect from the start. After Gittens was shot, he stumbled into a nearby apartment. The residents told police that Gittens said “Jigga shot me,” after collapsing on the floor. They also mentioned that they knew a Redfern resident with that nickname.
Police had arrested Jones hours after the murder. An officer spotted him was across the street from Gittens’s building. He told the officer that he had been outside all night. And Jones initially pleaded not guilty to the crime.
Law enforcement officials had a record on him by the time he was charged with killing Gittens.
In 2007, Jones was arrested in a sweep of 34 suspected gang members in Far Rockaway. He spent two years in prison for illegal possession of loaded handguns.
As we described in the feature:
Jones had been on the other side of the barrel as well. At 17, he and two friends were shot while standing outside a house party. He reached the hospital in critical condition, but managed to survive. The two friends died at the scene.
Jones also survived the most serious criminal accusations against him. In 2006, he was charged with shooting a man at Redfern. A month later, while out on bail, he was arrested again after seven men jumped and pistol-whipped a guy at the back of the complex. He beat both cases.
His sentencing is scheduled for February 3.