Laurel man convicted of shooting teen-agers

He fired handgun at group in May, injuring three

sentencing set for Feb. 7

October 23, 2002|By Lisa Goldberg | Lisa Goldberg,SUN STAFF

A 21-year-old Laurel man who fired a 9 mm handgun into a group of Columbia teen-agers in May, wounding three, was convicted yesterday of assault, reckless endangerment and handgun charges related to the incident.

Derek T. Powell admitted yesterday that he went to the 10300 block of Daystar Court in Columbia on May 14 looking for one of the youths and fired five shots from the front passenger window of a blue Lincoln.

But he said he only wanted to scare the teens, not hurt them, according to testimony.

Still, Howard Circuit Judge Dennis M. Sweeney, who tried the case instead of a jury, said the testimony he heard over two days supports convictions on 10 of the charges - including four for felony assault.

Sweeney also acquitted Powell of five separate attempted murder counts, saying he had doubts about whether the young man wanted to kill the teens.

"He explained that his intent was to frighten the group," Sweeney said.

Powell, of the 11600 block of S. Laurel Drive, faces a maximum penalty of more than 100 years in prison - one of the gun convictions carries a mandatory minimum five-year term - at his Feb. 7 sentencing.

"I'm just glad there's justice in this," said Sherrie Rivera, whose 18-year-old son, Ryan Fassett, was wounded. "He could have killed [Ryan]."

The shooting was the result of a confrontation that started outside Wilde Lake High School between two groups of friends who did not know each other, according to testimony and statements during the trial.

Powell and two friends, cousins Teon and Phillip Nicholson, had been attending a banquet in honor of Teon Nicholson's mother, according to court papers and testimony.

They drove to a Daystar Court parking lot and confronted the teens again. The teen-agers were on their way home from the Wilde Lake Village Center.

Powell, who was sitting in the front passenger's seat, called out to one of the teens, 19-year-old Arnique Douglas, according to testimony.

Douglas started approaching the vehicle, but stopped. Powell then began firing the gun, witnesses testified.

Three of the teen-agers, Fassett, 16-year-old Wendell Martinez and 17-year-old Tanelle Mitchell, were hit by bullets or bullet fragments.

Douglas was not hit, although a bullet or fragment apparently passed through his pants leg, according to testimony.

Teon Nicholson, 25, who was said to be driving the Lincoln and testified for the state Monday, is also facing charges and is scheduled for trial Nov. 19. A plea arrangement has been worked out in his case, according to testimony.

"Mr. Powell doesn't dispute that he was the shooter. ... Mr. Powell doesn't dispute that he fired the five shots," Powell's lawyer, George Petros, said during his closing argument.

"But the evidence doesn't show that there was "an effort or an intent to do anything other than shoot down toward that ground."

But prosecutors argued that if Powell, who used hollow-point bullets, just wanted to "scare" the teens, merely showing them the gun would have been enough.

"He didn't like the way this group approached him, so he responded by shooting," said Assistant State's Attorney Lisa Brown, who tried the case with fellow prosecutor Brendan Clary.

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