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Responding to an early morning call of shots fired last November, New London police officers arrived at 252 Montauk Ave. to witness the final moments of Jorge "Loco" Rosa's life.
Sgt. Lawrence Keating, the street supervisor on the midnight shift, said there was a distinct odor of marijuana and gunshot powder when he entered the third-floor apartment. Rosa, 25, was lying on the floor of the blood-spattered bedroom. Nobody else was in the apartment.
"I asked the victim who did this, who shot him," Keating testified at a hearing Thursday in Superior Court. "He was gasping for breath, gasping for air. I was asking who did this to you, trying to get the (dying) declaration out."
Had Rosa been able to identify his killers, the information could have been used in court. But Rosa was unable to respond, and eventually his eyes rolled into the back of his head, Keating testified. Paramedics were unable to revive him, and he was pronounced dead.
Keating and Patrolman Benjamin Burbank, two of the first responders to the fatal shooting on Nov. 12, 2011, testified at a probable cause hearing for 19-year-old Davion Smith, one of Rosa's two accused killers.
The hearing will resume on Sept. 20.
Smith is charged with breaking into the Montauk Avenue apartment with Evan J. Holmes and confronting Rosa in his bed. Holmes is accused of shooting Rosa multiple times before he and Smith fled.
At the hearing, prosecutor Paul J. Narducci is calling witnesses in an attempt to convince Judge Susan B. Handy there is enough proof to continue prosecuting Smith for murder. The state's burden is to prove that the crime probably occurred and that Smith probably committed the crime.
Members of the victim's family and Smith's relatives were in the courtroom as the first-responders described their actions that night. Smith, a small man with braided hair, sat at the defense table with his attorney, Jeremiah Donovan.
Smith's name did not come up until the state called Burbank as its second witness. Burbank said he saw Rosa's body and left the apartment, at Keating's request, to begin canvassing the neighborhood. As he left the apartment, he saw Officer Melissa Schfranski talking to Rosa's girlfriend, later identified as Gabriella Gonzalez, on the back porch. He said she was "crying, very upset and emotionally distraught." Burbank said he heard her say she didn't know who had shot Rosa.
"After having seen what I saw upstairs, it appeared to be that what had occurred was of a personal nature," he said. "I explained to the female that she needed to be forthcoming with us because his wounds were very serious and it didn't look like he was going to be able to speak for himself. She said, 'It was my ex-boyfriend, Evan Holmes and Davion Smith.' "
Burbank is expected to resume testifying when the hearing continues later this month.
According to court documents, the girlfriend told police she and Rosa had gone to sleep at 3:30 a.m. She said she woke up to hear Holmes' voice and to see Holmes and Smith standing at the end of the bed, pointing black handguns at Rosa. She said Holmes was asking Rosa who he was. She said Holmes shot Rosa two or three times before he and Smith fled.
Holmes had previously dated Rosa's girlfriend, according to court documents, but the two had broken up in April 2010, before Holmes went to prison for shooting somebody in the foot. Holmes had been released from prison just nine days before Rosa was killed.
Holmes was arrested about six hours after the shooting at the Days Inn in Old Saybrook. Smith was at large until March 20, when he was arrested at a relative's apartment in New London.
Less than an hour before the shooting, police had responded to a disturbance downtown. Witnesses told police that Rosa's roommate, 28-year-old Todd Silva, had fought with Holmes at an after-hours party of the Wild Style Riders Club on South Water Street. Silva punched Holmes in the mouth, and he was bleeding, according to witnesses.