A 24-year-old man who allegedly shot a teenage boy to death in February after the teen threw a snowball at another man was held for trial yesterday on murder and related charges.
Jose Mendez, of Eleanor Street near C in Feltonville, listened to a Spanish interpreter translate witness testimony at his preliminary hearing yesterday.
Prosecutors contend that on Feb. 24, Mendez shot Teven Rutledge in the head after the teen hit another man on the street with a snowball in Feltonville. Rutledge - who was celebrating his 15th birthday that day - had been throwing snowballs with friends.
Mendez, authorities say, got into an argument with the teens, returned home to get a gun, then came back and shot Rutledge.
Rutledge, of Olney, was pronounced dead the next day at Temple University Hospital.
Yesterday in court, Quasaun Davis, 17, said under questioning by Assistant District Attorney Deborah Watson-Stokes that he saw the shooting, but did not witness the earlier argument about a snowball.
Davis testified that he was at a friend's house on D Street that afternoon when his younger brother, Travis, 13, came to get him.
"There's a fight about to take place at the corner," Davis quoted his brother as telling him before his brother ran ahead. Davis said he then went toward his mother's house on D Street near Rockland, where he said he saw his brother, Rutledge and Mendez arguing.
Mendez was in the street, about 20 feet away from Rutledge, who was on the steps of the Davis family's house, said Davis, who does not live with his mother.
Davis testified that Mendez said to Rutledge, "Why are you here when I return?"
Then Mendez grabbed a black handgun from his waistband and shot Rutledge once in the right side of the head, Davis said. His brother, Travis, was about three feet away at the time, he said.
Afterward Mendez "just jogged away," Davis said.
During cross-examination by defense attorney Lee Mandell, Davis said his brother told him about the snowball incident after the shooting.
"He said, 'We was arguing,' " Davis testified. "He said it was over a snowball."
Under further questioning, Davis testified that he had heard that "someone else," and not Mendez, "got struck by a snowball," and that Mendez "was defending" that other person.
Municipal Court Judge James M. DeLeon held Mendez for trial on all charges including murder, weapons and related offenses.
Watson-Stokes said after the hearing that authorities do not know the identity of the man who was allegedly hit by the snowball.
Of Mendez, she said, this "looks like it's a clear case of premeditated first-degree murder. . . . He went home, got a gun. Then he shot an unarmed kid in the face."
Rutledge's father, Keith Wilson, said after the hearing: "I really miss my son."
He said his son was just visiting his friend, Travis, that day. "He wasn't a troublesome kid," he said of the teen, who was an eighth-grader at Community Council AEP, a private school under contract with the Philadelphia School District. *