INQUIRER STAFF WRITER
About 10:40 p.m. Jan. 12, 18-year-old Charles Johnson was found shot twice and mortally wounded on the sidewalk in the 500 block of East Washington Lane in East Germantown. A bullet-riddled 1999 Hyundai was abandoned around the corner on Musgrave Street.
The circumstances of Johnson's killing began as a mystery. In the end, they proved all too common: neighborhood harassment, young men, guns, mistaken identity, and a little too much attitude.
The mixture left Johnson dead and Sean Jones, 23, held for trial on murder charges Wednesday by a Philadelphia judge.
Assistant District Attorney Brian Zarallo described Jones as one of three young men who went out looking to retaliate against neighborhood toughs who had been harassing a friend named Sean Jenkins and his family.
What the trio found was the Hyundai in which Johnson and others were parked. Zarallo said words were exchanged, tempers flared, and Jones allegedly pulled a gun and fired into the car.
Trouble was, the guys in the Hyundai were not Jenkins' harassers.
Jenkins was Zarallo's main and very reluctant witness against Jones, a man he described as "like a nephew to me."
Jenkins testified about how on Jan. 12 he spotted a car parked near his house containing several men whom he believed - mistakenly - were his neighborhood nemeses. Jenkins said he called a friend named "Mike" to come over to provide moral and muscular support in case of trouble.
Jenkins said Mike arrived with Jones and another friend named "Troy." After talking for a while, Jenkins testified, the three men went out, only to return minutes later.
"Mike came back saying something was going on up the street that he didn't want any part of," Jenkins testified. Jones and Troy also returned and Jenkins said he heard sirens echoing through the neighborhood.
But Jenkins recanted part of his Jan. 25 statement to homicide detectives in which he said that Troy and Jones came back to the house out of breath, told him what happened, and how Jones allegedly fired into the Hyundai.
"I said, 'You all got to go, you all got to go right now,' " Jenkins said to the three men, according to homicide Detective Philip Nordo, who read the statement to Municipal Court Judge Jimmie Moore.
Jenkins, in testimony Wednesday, insisted Jones was not out of breath and never said anything about what happened.
The discrepancy between Jenkins' testimony and earlier statement led defense attorney Shaka Johnson to argue that the charges against Jones should be dismissed for lack of evidence.
Zarallo, however, told Moore that even with the discrepancies in Jenkins' statements, there was enough evidence to hold Jones in custody for a trial before a jury.