Man to get 17 years in fatal New London shooting
A 23-year-old former New London man decided on Monday to accept a plea agreement and a sentence of 17 years in prison rather than stand trial for murder.
Jamir Johnson appeared before Judge Hillary Strackbein in New London Superior Court and pleaded guilty to charges of first-degree manslaughter with a firearm and carrying a pistol without a permit in the Dec. 9, 2017 shooting death of 21-year-old Quvonte “Q” Andre Gray.
Johnson shot Gray in the head at close range in a confrontation at an apartment at the intersection of Montauk Avenue and Orchard Street. A witness told police that Gray was seen taunting Johnson on Orchard Street prior to the shooting and had followed Johnson and another man to the apartment where Gray was shot and killed. Gray was wearing brass knuckles when he was shot, police said.
Johnson’s plea came as jury selection was scheduled to continue Monday.
New London County State’s Attorney Paul Narducci, in courtroom testimony on Monday, said the reduced charge from murder was the result of factors, including indications Johnson would raise a claim of self-defense at trial.
Johnson, who was 18 at the time of the shooting, was with several other people at 123 Montauk Ave., Apt 4, when the shooting occurred. Witnesses told police that Gray and Johnson exchanged words on Orchard Street while Johnson was walking with another man to a nearby convenience store.
During a confrontation, police said Johnson was heard saying things to Gray like, “Why are you looking at me?” and “You don’t know me.” Gray was heard saying, “You don’t know me.” and “I don’t care who you are.”
Gray followed the two men to the Montauk Avenue apartment where at least one person, including the eyewitness, was smoking crack, police said.
Gray, according to one witness, showed up at the door and again exchanged words with Johnson and had one hand in his pocket “acting like he had a gun,” one witness told police.
Police said Johnson revealed a handgun and shot Gray in the head from about three feet away.
After shooting Gray, Johnson allegedly told others present, “You all better not say anything,” according to the arrest warrant affidavit in the case.
Johnson had fled New London after the shooting but was captured on July 31, 2018 in Plymouth County, Mass., where he was charged in connection with a series of more than four dozen car burglaries and breaking into homes.
Johnson, represented by attorney Michael Blanchard, pleaded guilty to the manslaughter charge under the Alford Doctrine, which means he does not agree with all of the state’s allegations but does not want to risk a harsher sentence at trial.
First-degree manslaughter with a firearm carries a maximum penalty of 40 years in prison and illegal possession of a handgun carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.
Johnson’s courtroom appearance was attended by more than a dozen supporters. Family of the victim were not present in court but were contacted in advance and made aware of the plea agreement, Victim Advocate LeeAnn Vertefeuille said. Gray’s family, Vertefeuille said, wanted Johnson tried for murder and were looking for a stiffer sentence.
Johnson will be back in court at a later date for formal sentencing.