A man prosecutors called a "gang leader" was sentenced to a total of 106 years, with 40 to serve, after he pleaded guilty to shooting three victims in a city park last year.
Dante Ravon Williams, 18, admitted shooting Gregory Lee Wallace, now 16; and his 20-year-old brother Gregtavius Wallace and 15-year-old brother Garrett Taylor in what police called a gang-related act of violence March 10, 2009.
Bulloch County Superior Court Judge John R. Turner called the shootings "an inexcusably cowardly act" and sentenced Williams to 40 years to serve, with 20 years probation and three concurrent sentences of 15 years each. The 15-year sentences were for counts of participation in criminal street gang activity while the other sentences were for aggravated assault charges. Turner also handed down a 12-month concurrent sentence for a charge of carrying a concealed weapon.
Williams waived the right to a jury trial and pleaded guilty to the charges, but later asked for leniency before Turner handed down the sentence.
Gregory Lee Wallace sat in the courtroom in a wheelchair, unable to use his right arm. One leg was amputated at the hip, and his vision is so impaired he can only see shadows, he told the court.
Making an effort to speak loud enough for the court to hear, Wallace had to feel for the microphone in order to speak into it. He talked about how he met his brothers at Luetta Moore Park on Blitch Street to play football, and was gunned down by Williams, with whom he had grown up.
He spoke about having had 12 surgeries, including a tracheotomy while he was hospitalized, and how he once played football and track, but cannot do so anymore because if his injuries.
With prompting from Ogeechee Judicial Circuit Assistant District Attorney Daphne Jarriel, Williams talked about how his mother has to help him with simple tasks such as bathing and dressing, and how she helps with his six-month-old son, whose face he has never seen due to his vision impairment that stems from his shooting injuries.
Statesboro High School teacher and coach Chase Childers testified about helping the Wallace family after the shootings, and he broke down as he told of using a church van to transport the family to Atlanta and Augusta hospitals.
Keisha Taylor, the victims' mother, was close by when her sons were shot. A phone call from one son informing them that Williams was at the park with a gun sent her to the scene, near her home, in time to see one son bleeding from a gunshot to the leg and another shot in the abdomen, unconscious. A third son, Taylor, suffered minor injuries.
"He was dead when they put him in the ambulance," she said. "They brought him back to life."
She told the court she and Williams' mother were best friends, and their sons grew up together. "Dante used to call me auntie," she said. "I know he done wrong... ought to be punished ... (but) I forgive him."
Tiesha Wilson testified watching the shooting. She was there to pick her teenage son up and watched as Williams "pulled a gun out, stood sideways, turned the gun sideways and started shooting. I'll never forget."
She said Williams said nothing as he fired, but another teen with him urged him to "burn him, burn him."
Statesboro Police Crime Suppression Unit Officer Brian Jackson testified that Williams shared information about an ongoing feud between his gang, the "Soldier Squad," and the victim's gang, the "Bottom Boys." Jackson said Williams admitted he "went to the park with his crew ... and decided he needed to 'smoke a few.'" He planned on killing one victim identified by the nickname "Pig," but it was unclear which victim went by that name during testimony.
Williams' sister Charlene Thomas and his girlfriend Shatavian Calhoun each took the stand, reading statements asking for leniency in sentencing because they would miss Williams. Both mentioned Williams is a good person" who planned to attend college.
Williams: "I'm not a bad person"
When Williams addressed the court, he read a statement of apology. "I think about it every day ... I have bad dreams about it ... I wish I could take everything away. I take full responsibility for my actions."
Then he pleaded for mercy, talking about college plans. "I'm not a bad person at all. I am trying to make something of myself."
Williams remained at large for months after the shooting, with investigators seeking him in areas from Savannah to Portal. A reward was offered for information on his location, and he was captured in a Garfield Street home in May. Police locked down a local elementary school while negotiating his capture.
In addition to Williams, seven others have been sentenced in the shootings - five adults and two juveniles. Skylar Polk, 17, was sentenced to 10 years to serve, followed by five years probation for aggravated assault, Jarriel said.
Myron Johnson, 18, was given a sentence of 10 years to serve, followed by five years probation for aggravated assault and criminal gang activity.
Reginald Hagins, 17, was sentenced to five years to serve, and five years on probation for aggravated assault and criminal gang activity.
James D. Grace, 17, was also sentenced to five years to serve, and five years on probation for aggravated assault and criminal gang activity.
Dalfonza Mikell, 17, was given a sentence of five years probation, with 18-24 months to serve in a probation detention center for aggravated assault and criminal gang activity, she said.
"All defendants were ordered to have no contact with any victim in the case," she said. "There were two additional defendants whose cases were disposed through the Juvenile Court of Bulloch County."
Jarriel said the Statesboro Police Department along with the District Attorney's office began prosecuting gang activity beginning in 2006.
"Prior to the Luetta Moore Park shooting, Kathy Bradley (our juvenile prosecutor) handled 43 gang related cases in juvenile court. This is the third Superior court case that we have had involving gang activity."
Holli Deal Bragg may be reached at (912) 489-9414.