Fifteen-year-old Isaiah Harris was supposed to wear his new Calvin Klein suit to prom.
Instead, his family buried him in it.
Harris was shot and killed May 30, 2011. Eugene Antoine Kelly was convicted in April of first-degree murder in connection with Harris’s death; he was sentenced Friday to 67 years in prison.
Harris’s mother, Geneva Harris, wrote a letter to the court, which was read aloud Friday by another family member. In the letter, Geneva Harris said she was on her way to work when she learned her son had been shot. “My hands went numb and something snatched my heart out of my chest,” the letter said. The letter also said that Harris was not a violent person and that he avoided bad influences.
At trial, Harris’ friend Joseph Wilson testified that he and Harris had just left speaking with a girl and were walking along New Jersey Avenue Northwest when they suddenly heard gunshots.
“The worst thing they did that night was break curfew to talk to a girl,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Holly Shick told the court Friday.
Wilson suffered a gunshot wound to his right leg and survived. Harris was shot in the left buttock and later died at Howard University Hospital.
Prosecutors believe Kelly shot the two teens seeking vengeance for his brother’s death. The teens “did not know Kelly and had no knowledge of or involvement in the 2008 murder of his brother,” prosecutors said in a statement Friday. “They were simply walking from the area of 5th and O Streets NW.”
One witness testified at trial that he was sitting on his front porch the night of the murder and saw the shooter, riding a “mini-sized bicycle,” hide behind a vehicle moments before Harris and Wilson appeared. The witness said there were no verbal exchanges between the shooter and the teens. After firing several times, the shooter rode off on the bike, the witness said.
Another witness testified that on the evening of May 30, 2011, Kelly approached him riding a bike and carrying a ski mask. The witness said that after Kelly rode away, he stopped by a dumpster and retrieved a gun. Minutes later, the witness heard gunshots.
Before reading sentencing terms Friday, Judge Herbert Dixon said that Harris and Wilson were doing “nothing but being teenagers,” and that he couldn’t understand why Kelly would seek vengeance from the first people he ran across.
Outside the courtroom after sentencing, Harris’s grandmother, Beatrice Harris, said the whole family “has been going through a lot of pain.” Harris’s uncle, Anthony Towns, described his nephew’s death as “tragic,” but felt that “justice was served.”
Sentencing documents and a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office are below.
District Man Sentenced to 67 Years in Prison For Shooting That Killed One Teenager And Wounded Another in Northwest Washington -Attack Took Place on Memorial Day of 2011-
WASHINGTON - Eugene A. Kelly, 28, of Washington, D.C., was sentenced today to 67 years in prison on charges of first-degree murder while armed, assault with intent to kill while armed, and related offenses stemming from the shooting of two teenagers in Northwest Washington on Memorial Day of 2011, U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. announced.
Kelly was found guilty of the charges in April 2013, following a trial in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. He was sentenced by the Honorable Herbert B. Dixon, Jr.
“This case is a tragic reminder of the senseless cycle of violence that is far too common in our city,” said U.S. Attorney Machen. “In a foolish attempt to avenge his brother’s murder, Eugene Kelly shot two innocent fifteen-year-old boys, killing one of them. Kelly’s inexplicable decision to kill a child did nothing to bring back his brother or to honor his brother’s memory. That terrible decision will instead result in Kelly spending the rest of his life behind bars. We hope that this lengthy sentence sends the message that there is nothing good that comes from perpetuating the cycle of violence.”
According to the government’s evidence, on May 30, 2011, at about 10:15 p.m., the victims, two 15-year-old boys, were walking home in the 1400 block of New Jersey Avenue NW. As they were walking, Kelly opened fire and shot both teenagers. Isaiah Harris was killed by a single gunshot wound to his body. The surviving victim was shot in the leg.
Just before the shooting, Kelly, who was riding a small trick bike, had stopped to talk to a neighborhood acquaintance. The defendant mentioned his brother’s 2008 murder, and stated his belief that someone from the nearby 5th and O Streets neighborhood was responsible. Kelly announced that someone was going to pay for his brother’s murder, and said that he was going to retrieve a gun. He then retrieved a gun by a nearby dumpster and rode east on P Street toward New Jersey Avenue. Seconds later, the defendant fired multiple times, targeting the two teens.
The victims did not know Kelly and had no knowledge of or involvement in the 2008 murder of his brother. They were simply walking from the area of 5th and O Streets NW.
During a search warrant of the defendant’s home two days later, law enforcement officers found a small trick bike that matched the witnesses’ descriptions of the bike used by the shooter, as well as ammunition consistent with the type used in the murder. In addition, an FBI expert in historical cell site analysis determined that the defendant’s phone was used in the vicinity of the murder within 15 minutes of the murder.
Finally, on Sept. 14, 2011, a guard at the District of Columbia Jail found a note taken from an inmate during a routine morning check. The note, signed by Kelly with his jail identification number, provided a witness’s name and address, and identified members of the witness’s family. A handwriting expert from the FBI concluded that Kelly wrote the note.
In announcing the sentence, U.S. Attorney Machen commended the work of the Metropolitan Police Department, the FBI, and the District of Columbia Department of Forensic Sciences, which were involved in the investigation and prosecution of this case. U.S. Attorney Machen also expressed appreciation to Paralegal Specialists Kelly Blakeney and Ethel Noble, Victim /Witness Advocate Marcia Rinker, Supervisory Litigation Technology Specialist Joseph Calvarese, Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Ortwein, who indicted the case, and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jennifer A. Kerkhoff and Holly R. Shick, who tried the case.