The fatal shooting of a 13-year-old boy in a Chinese takeout in Nicetown two years ago was a clear case of first-degree murder as evidenced by surveillance video, a city prosecutor told a jury Thursday.
Despite donning a ski mask to cover his face, Tymear Johnson, then 19, wore a distinctive red jacket that witnesses and surveillance video indicated he had on earlier that night in March 2017, Assistant District Attorney Courtney Malloy said in her closing argument at Johnson’s murder trial.
When Johnson raised his .45-caliber gun, “calmly and smoothly” walked toward a group of four younger teens at a table in the Gold Fish Chinese takeout, then fired a shot at Khiseer Davis-Prather’s head, killing him, that was premeditated murder, Malloy said.
As the prosecutor spoke and video of the shooting inside the takeout played on a large projection screen, relatives of the victim were visibly upset and one screamed, then left the courtroom.
The disruption prompted Common Pleas Court Judge Rose Marie DeFino-Nastasi to dismiss the jury for a short break, during which she instructed those in the courtroom not to react.
After the break, Malloy reminded jurors that another young man who had initially been charged with murder in Davis-Prather’s death, Christopher Southerland, had identified Johnson as the shooter. Southerland, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit aggravated assault and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors, testified Tuesday at Johnson’s trial.
Southerland, then 17, said he accompanied Johnson to the takeout that night. He testified that he did not know Johnson was going to shoot anyone.
Johnson’s attorney, Gina Amoriello, acknowledged in her closing Thursday that Johnson was the man wearing the distinctive red jacket earlier that night in videos captured at the King of Prussia Mall and on a SEPTA bus heading back to Philadelphia, but she contended that he was not the shooter caught on video in the takeout.
She argued that jurors should have reasonable doubt as to who shot Davis-Prather because they could not see the face of the masked gunman in the video. And she tried to cast doubt on the validity of Southerland’s testimony by pointing out that as part of his plea deal with prosecutors, he could be sentenced to a lesser prison term.
There was no evidence that Johnson, who did not testify during the trial, or Southerland knew Davis-Prather or the three friends he was with at the time of the shooting.
Their paths first crossed when the SEPTA bus Johnson and Southerland were riding in briefly stopped in front of the takeout on West Hunting Park Avenue.
Surveillance video from the bus showed Johnson looking out the bus window toward the takeout and pointing. Meanwhile, video from the takeout showed one of Davis-Prather’s friends, who was standing with his back to the video camera, appearing to make some kind of hand gesture toward the bus.
“I submit to you,” Malloy told jurors, “there’s no hand gesture in this world that would justify putting a .45-caliber handgun to a 13-year-old’s head.”
Whatever Johnson saw, he felt “disrespected,” she said.
So, moments later, "to satisfy his own personal sense of justice,” Johnson fired a gun at Davis-Prather’s head from just inches away, Malloy said. Davis-Prather died nine days later at a hospital. Johnson did not have a license to carry a gun, which has not been recovered.