Murder trial advancing the idea of mistaken identity of victim underway

Three years ago, Johnny Amy worked his shift at Foxwoods Resort Casino, then spent a while smoking marijuana and drinking with a friend in downtown Norwich before he was shot in the head for no apparent reason as he walked home, according to testimony Thursday in New London Superior Court.

Jurors viewed a video of Amy's shooting on the first day of the trial of his alleged killer, 27-year-old Daquan "Q" Holmes of Queens, N.Y. Captured by a surveillance camera at a nearby laundromat, the video shows Amy walking on Franklin Street behind his friend, Joseph Cadet, before he collapses suddenly in the middle of the street.

The video does not show the shooter.

Prosecutor Stephen M. Carney alleges that Holmes mistook Amy for Corneulius Wingate, with whom Holmes and his friend William A. "Trig" Long had a beef outside of Chacers bar a few minutes before the 2:30 a.m. shooting on May 21, 2011. The state alleges Holmes and Long pulled up in a car with two women and Holmes shot Amy with a Ruger .22-caliber pistol provided by Long.

Long has been in custody since shortly after the shooting and is awaiting trial.

Norwich police said Holmes fled to New York City after the shooting and was subsequently arrested for the armed robbery of a check-cashing business. Holmes was convicted of the robbery and was in custody in a New York prison when Norwich police retrieved him on the strength of a governor's warrant in June 2013 after he refused to waive extradition. He has been held in lieu of $1 million bond while the case is pending.

Represented by attorney Christopher Duby, Holmes turned down an offer to plead guilty in exchange for a 37-year prison sentence and opted for a jury trial. He wore a business suit and a fresh haircut as the trial got underway before a jury of 12 regular members and alternates. His mother and several other family members sat behind him in the courtroom.

Amy's father, Mario Amy, has attended some of Holmes' and Long's court appearances and met with the prosecutor recently but was not in court for the first day of Holmes' trial. Judge Barbara Bailey Jongbloed is presiding over the trial.

As Carney called on first responders and introduced photographs to set the scene for the jury, Norwich patrolman Scott DuPointe testified that he was dispatched to a fight in the area of Chacers but that it had broken up by the time he arrived. DuPointe said he and another patrolman were parked side by side in their cruisers near the Norwich Mini Market Convenience Store on Franklin Avenue when he heard gunshots and headed south on Franklin. He said he saw one male, later identified as Amy, lying down and another, Cadet, kneeling over him. After talking to Cadet, he drove north on Boswell Avenue to look for the assailants' car but found nothing.

The squawking sound of police radios being keyed reverberated through the courtroom as the state played a recording of dispatches from the incident. Jurors viewed video from inside Chacers bar that shows Long drinking a beer shortly after 2 a.m. The bar owner, Jeff Chase, testified that he heard someone call Long outside. Chase said he was outside when a disturbance involving 20 to 30 people occurred. He said he heard talk of guns and knives and that he called 911.

Wingate, who the state alleges was the intended target of Holmes' bullet, testified that he spent the night drinking and smoking marijuana with friends and that he was walking past Chacers when Long, whom he knew from the streets and prison, came up to him with "another guy and a girl." Wingate testified that he was too drunk to remember what happened, but that after he left and walked up Boswell Avenue toward Main Street, he realized he had been stabbed in the arm. He said the wound was bleeding "enough to put a shirt around it." Wingate said he and his sister were halfway up Boswell Avenue when they heard shots fired and ducked behind a car. He said he saw a green, four-door car fleeing.

Amy was breathing but not speaking after the shooting, according to American Ambulance Paramedic Adam J. Schuett, who testified that he packed the victim's head wound with gauze and performed other life-saving measures before taking him to The William W. Backus Hospital. Amy was later transferred to St. Francis Hospital, which has a trauma unit, where he succumbed to his injury.

Cadet, who was with Amy that night, testified that he and Amy were talking about their kids when a car rolled up and somebody accused them of saying something.

"I told them, 'You have the wrong dude. Get out of here,'" Cadet testified. He said he didn't know the shooter.

He said he and Amy kept walking, then he started running after hearing gunshots and realizing they were being fired on. He realized Amy had been shot and went back to him. When the police arrived, "I was just holding him," he said.

The state is expected to call additional law enforcement witnesses, including Detective David Lamoureax from the state police Eastern District Major Crime Squad as the trial continues, as well as several civilian witnesses, including two women who were with Holmes and Long on the night of the shooting.

The trial could last up to two weeks.

k.florin@theday.com

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