Cousins describe woman’s death

Mercy Williams and her two cousins were talking to a friend outside a West Las Vegas house when the man in black appeared.

“Who is that?” Williams, 22, asked as three other men in black joined the first, testified Williams’ cousins in court Tuesday.

The men pulled out guns and began to shoot.

“Mercy, she just stood there in shock, and I didn’t want to leave her,” said her 27-year-old cousin, Myniece Cook. “I told her, ‘We need to run.'”

Arm in arm, they took six steps.

Cook heard Mercy gasp and felt her grow heavy in her arms.

“Mercy got shot, and when she fell, I fell,” Cook said. “I just laid there and played dead.”

When the shooting stopped, Williams, who family said recently had discovered she was pregnant, was dead.

The trial for two of the shooting suspects, 21-year-old Jemar Matthews and 18-year-old Pierre Joshlin, began Tuesday in District Judge David Barker’s courtroom.

Police found almost 40 shell casings at the scene that matched three separate weapons police found during the manhunt that netted Matthews and Joshlin, prosecutor Linda Lewis said.

They are charged with murder in Williams’ Sept. 30 death at Balzar Avenue and Lexington Street and three counts of attempted murder in connection with the shots fired at cousins Cook and 16-year-old Michel-le Tolefree and Tolefree’s high school friend Maurice Hickman.

Cook bears the scars from a bullet that ripped her wrist.

Lewis said the defendants stole a Lincoln Town Car at gunpoint a block away on Lawry Avenue moments after the shooting. According to the police report, Matthews was the driver and Joshlin a passenger when Las Vegas police officers Bradley Cupp and Brian Walter began their high-speed chase of the suspects.

The chase ended at Lexington Street, near Doolittle Avenue, when the Lincoln hopped a curb and ran into a fire hydrant.

Police said Matthews jumped out of the car and ran, with Walter in pursuit.

At least two other suspects also got out of the car. Cupp pursued the one who he saw had a gun in his hand.

Cupp’s chase led a team of police to a nearby apartment complex, where officers, hearing noises, surrounded a trash bin. Inside it, police said, they found Joshlin and a Glock pistol.

Police also found a Colt .44-caliber gun in the Lincoln and a .22-caliber short-barrel rifle that they said had been ditched near where the vehicle had been abandoned. Those two weapons and the Glock matched the casings at the scene, Lewis said.

With the help of a police dog, officers found Matthews hiding in a front yard on Jimmy Avenue.

Matthews’ lawyer, Dayvid Figler, said the dog bit Matthews in the hand and neck. But, he added, “You cannot say that Jemar Matthews and the driver of that car are the same person.”

The neighborhood police were searching is filled with young black men who wear dark clothing, and it’s typical for young men in the area to hide from police, Figler said.

Joshlin’s lawyer, Philip Singer, said his client was running through the neighborhood after he heard the shots fired when the Lincoln crashed into a fire hydrant near him. The suspects got out of the car and dispersed, and police began chasing and firing at Joshlin, Singer said.

None of the witnesses from the crime scenes could identify Joshlin or Matthews as the gunmen, Singer said.

But prosecutor Sam Bateman on Tuesday got Tolefree to say Joshlin looked like the first man in black they saw in front of Hickman’s house.

Walter identified Matthews as the driver of the stolen Lincoln after he was handcuffed, Figler said, calling this a case of post-event identification and cross-racial identification.

Joshlin and Matthews are black. Walter is white.

Poor police work, “that’s where the blame for the death goes,” Singer said.

But Williams’ family members are convinced that the defendants were responsible.

“She was in the community doing good things,” her cousin Dorothy Lawson said. Williams was a soprano in her church choir, a worker at two day care centers and a hip-hop dance instructor, Lawson said.

During witness testimony, a confrontation occurred outside the courtroom between friends of one or both of the defendants and a friend of the Williams family.

Afterward, Lawson said, “We aren’t scared to stand up. We’re not afraid because she didn’t have to leave here like that.”

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