MAYS LANDING, N.J. — An Atlantic City man accused of firing into the bleachers of a Pleasantville High School football game last fall, fatally wounding 10-year-old Micah Tennant and injuring two people, pleaded not guilty Thursday at his arraignment on charges of murder, attempted murder, and weapons offenses.
Alvin Wyatt, 31, dressed in an orange prison shirt and pants, with his hands shackled, smiled at four women in the gallery as he entered the courtroom.
His attorney, Stephen Funk, entered a not-guilty plea on his behalf before Superior Court Judge Bernard DeLury.
Chief Assistant Prosecutor Seth Levy told the judge his office’s initial offer to Wyatt would be a sentence of life in prison. When the prosecutor spoke, Wyatt shook his head.
About a dozen of the victim’s relatives were in court Thursday. After Wyatt’s brief appearance, an aunt, Monica Tennant, said outside the courtroom: “I don’t understand why he’s coming out smiling like this is a joke. He took a baby’s life.”
The shooting happened in November during the third quarter of a Friday night playoff football game between Camden and Pleasantville High Schools at Pleasantville’s stadium. The gunshots sent a panicked crowd fleeing the packed high school athletic complex.
Authorities said Wyatt, spotting a rival in the stands, opened fire into the bleachers, shooting his intended target, Ibn Abdullah, 27, as well as two bystanders, Micah and a 15-year-old boy who was sitting nearby.
Abdullah, who has been released from a hospital, is also charged with weapon offenses. The 15-year-old victim, whose name has been withheld, was treated and released.
Wyatt was tackled in the end zone while trying to flee the stadium, police said.
Micah, a fifth grader at Atlantic City’s Uptown School Complex, died at Cooper University Medical Center in Camden, five days after being shot in the neck.
Also Thursday, three other men — Michael Mack and Shahid Dixon, both 27 and of Atlantic County, and Vance Golden, 26, of Pleasantville — pleaded not guilty during their arraignments before DeLury. They were charged with unlawful gun possession after another man in a BMW they were traveling in after the shooting, Tyrell Dorn, allegedly threw a 9mm handgun out the vehicle’s window near Atlantic City. (This was not the gun used in Micah’s shooting, authorities said.)
Matthew Portella, Mack’s attorney, told the judge that last month Dorn signed an affidavit in which he said he was the one who had this gun and that no one else in the vehicle knew anything about it.
Dorn also said in his affidavit that he had borrowed the car from a friend, that Dixon drove, and that they only gave Mack and Golden a ride back from the football game, Portella said.
The affidavit “exculpates Mr. Mack and inculpates 100% Mr. Dorn,” Portella said.
Attorneys James Grimley and Jake Bayak, for Dixon and Golden, respectively, made similar arguments.
Assistant Prosecutor Edmund Mallqui-Burgos argued that this was not the time to determine the credibility of Dorn’s affidavit and have a “mini-trial.” DeLury agreed.
Dixon allegedly told investigators he used FaceTime to give Wyatt Abdullah’s location as “in the bleachers.” Investigators have said they were looking at an earlier Atlantic City homicide as a possible motive in the football-game shooting and also looking at the defendants’ possible connections to drug trafficking.