Cherry Hill man admits to shooting aboard bus Ex-soldier, 20, says he killed boy, 15, hurt two

August 14, 1998|By Caitlin Francke | Caitlin Francke,SUN STAFF

A Cherry Hill man admitted yesterday to opening fire in an MTA bus last year, killing a 15-year-old student and injuring two others in an attack that sent the bus' passengers fleeing in panic.

Davon Robinson, 20, stood ramrod straight with his arms behind his back as he pleaded guilty in Baltimore Circuit Court to murder, assault and handgun charges. His guilty plea came after four days of trial and just before the jury was to begin deliberating.

Robinson, a former Army soldier who had no criminal record, faces up to 55 years in prison when he is sentenced in October.

As he was led from the courtroom, family members rushed outside to follow him down the hall.

"We love you," one woman yelled.

Family members of the victim, Rodney Barnes, were not in the courtroom.

Assistant State's Attorney Gerard B. Volatile said in court that Robinson shot Barnes five times Sept. 10, standing over him when Barnes was on the floor of the bus and firing his gun even after it was empty.

What sparked the attack is unclear. Volatile said one witness overheard Robinson bragging to a young girl on the bus that he had a gun. A confrontation ensued between Robinson and Barnes. Barnes stood up and said, "What's up, man?" and "If you're going to pull it out, pull it out," Volatile said, recounting witness statements.

Robinson then took the gun out of his backpack and started firing -- even, as one witness said, when the teen-ager was crawling to the back of the bus.

Barnes was hit in the chest, back, arm and in the back of his head.

Two passengers were hit by bullets but survived the attack, which occurred on the No. 2 bus on South Gilmor Street about 7 p.m. About 20 passengers were on the bus during the shooting. The driver immediately stopped the bus and passengers clambered to escape.

Robinson's attorney argued that her client was acting in self-defense.

Assistant Public Defender Janette E. DeBoissiere said Robinson overreacted to what he perceived as a threat from Barnes. She said Robinson had been robbed two weeks earlier and had started carrying a gun.

"He thought Mr. Barnes was pulling out a weapon," DeBoissiere said. "Mr. Barnes just looked at him in a confrontational manner."

Robinson is a high school graduate who joined the Army but had to leave after a few months because of an injury to his hand, she said.

"He is very religious and is feeling very deeply about how bad it must be for Rodney Barnes' family," she said.

Robinson's aunt, a minister, quoted passages from the Bible as she tearily spoke of the shooting incident.

"We're going to stick with him. We're going to love him unconditionally," said the Rev. Idame McCormick.

Pub Date: 8/14/98

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