CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. (WIVB) - The teen accused of a broad daylight shooting in Cheektowaga Town Park two years ago that killed an ECC student has been found guilty of manslaughter.
On the day after Memorial Day in 2011, 19-year-old Ira Watkins was shot and killed in the park. Prosecutors say 19-year-old Dontre Jones was near the basketball and tennis courts when he fired up to 45 feet away from a group of boys that was coming towards him.
Jones attorney Andrew LoTempio said, "There had been problems brewing between young men from Humison Street and Guilford Avenue. I believe that his intent was just to scare them off. They'd go running, and unfortunately he hit someone."
Watkins had been attending ECC and was a manager at Taco Bell. Days after his murder, hundreds came out to the park for a vigil.
It took nine months for Jones to be identified and charged and another year for him to be found guilty after a non-jury trial.
Erie County Judge Michael Pietruszka could have found Jones guilty of second degree murder, but instead found him guilty of first degree manslaughter.
Assistant District Attorney James Bargnesi said, "This was a very difficult case from the beginning. We argued that it was an intent to cause death. The court found it was intent to cause serious injury, but nonetheless, an excellent resolution to a very difficult case that was now some two years old."
LoTempio added, "We had argued that he had shot recklessly and didn't even intend to injure anybody and that's what we were hoping the judge would find."
Watkins' father and sister didn't want to be interviewed on camera, but say they were hoping for a murder conviction. But with Jones found guilty of manslaughter, they are now hopeful Jones will face the maximum sentence of 25 years in prison.
Jones will be sentenced August 26 and Judge Pietruszka can sentence him anywhere from five to 25 years behind bars.
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