Eugene Kelly usually spent Memorial Day at his brother’s gravesite. But in 2011 Kelly’s family opted not to make the visit and the 26-year-old was frustrated.
And so, instead of visiting the cemetery, he went to the neighborhood where his brother was killed and he “took out his grief” by shooting two teens. One survived. The other, 15-year-old Isaiah Daniel Harris, was killed.
At least, that’s how prosecutors tell it. Kelly’s attorney argues that a key government witness who identified Kelly as the shooter was a former confidential informant for the FBI “hoping to make ends meet by providing false information.”
Jurors charged with determining Kelly’s guilt heard these arguments Thursday at the start of Kelly’s trial. Kelly is charged with first-degree murder while armed, assault with intent to kill and related weapons offenses in connection with Harris’ death.
During opening statements Thursday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Holly Schick told jurors that Kelly and his family typically visited his brother’s gravesite each year on Memorial Day.
But in 2011 they chose not to make the visit and instead Kelly “took out his grief” on others in the neighborhood where his brother was killed, she said.
Minutes before the shooting, Schick said, Kelly told a witness that he was going to avenge his brother’s death.
“He said that somebody was going to have to pay,” Schick told the jury.
Police found Harris lying in the 1400 block of New Jersey Avenue Northwest around 10 p.m. that Monday evening suffering from a gunshot wound to the left buttock; he later died at Howard University Hospital. Harris’ friend, 17-year-old Joseph Wilson, was found injured nearby. He was taken to the hospital, treated, and survived.
On Thursday, Wilson told jurors that he and Harris were walking along New Jersey Avenue when they all of a sudden heard gunshots. The two men ducked and started to run, but Harris fell. Wilson said that he picked Harris up, helped him to the sidewalk, and asked people nearby to call an ambulance. Wilson then kept running, and when he reached his house he realized that he had been shot in the leg.
“The bullet went right through,” Wilson said.
A different witness testified that New Jersey Avenue NW experienced an electricity blackout on that Monday evening, so he decided to sit on his porch and get some air. While out there, he saw a guy riding a bike open fire on two teenagers.
The witness testified that the shooter was riding a “mini-sized bicycle” and that the teens did not see the shooter, who had slowed down and hid behind a vehicle moments before the teens appeared. The witness said that the shooter extended his arm, and then he heard gunshots and “saw sparkles.” There were no verbal exchanges between the shooter and the teens. The shooter then “hauled tail at cartoon speed,” the witness testified.
Dr. Sunile Prashar, a forensic pathologist, testified that the bullet that struck Harris in the buttock entered his pelvis and injured an artery. The bullet was recovered from Harris’ mid-abdomen, just below the skin, and caused significant blood loss which led to his death, Prashar said.
A search warrant was later issued for Kelly’s residence and police recovered a lime green “trick bike” and two different types of ammunition.
The weapon used to murder Harris was never recovered.
In opening arguments, Kelly’s defense attorney, Jason Downs, asked jurors to question the honesty of government witnesses during the course of the trial. He said that among those expected to testify was a witness who identified Kelly as the shooter. This man was a former confidential informant for the FBI, Downs said.
“This is not a good Samaritan helping the police solve a crime,” Downs said. “He was looking to get paid.”
Trial is scheduled to resume Monday morning in Judge Herbert Dixon’s courtroom.