Third teenager charged in murder of homeless man

Published: Wednesday, January 18, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 17, 2006 at 11:37 p.m.
FORT LAUDERDALE - A third teenager was charged Tuesday with murder in the vicious beating death of a homeless man who was battered with a baseball bat and shot with a paintball gun, police said.
Police also said a black 1997 Chevrolet belonging to the third suspect, 18-year-old William Ammons, was used by assailants in at least two of the attacks. They said Ammons admitted his involvement in the violent spree against three homeless men early last Thursday.
"I can't imagine what would go through somebody's mind or what they were thinking to commit a heinous crime such as this," said Fort Lauderdale police Capt. Michael Gregory.
Ammons, 18-year-old Brian Hooks and 17-year-old Thomas Daugherty all face murder and assault charges in the attacks, one of which was recorded by a security surveillance camera and broadcast on television around the world. Homeless advocates said the camera's presence merely recorded the everyday violence directed against the homeless.
The three are charged with participating in or being present in the attack that killed 45-year-old Norris Gaynor while he slept in a park. Also injured in attacks were 58-year-old Jacques Pierre - the assault that was captured on tape outside a college facility - and 49-year-old Raymond Perez.
Gregory told reporters that at least one other attack on a homeless person in Broward County was being investigated for possible links to the trio, but he would not release any details or whether it occurred the same day as the others.
"There are some similarities," he said. Ammons was initially charged only with assaulting Perez using a driver golf club while he slept at a church and released Tuesday on $5,000 bail. He was arrested a few hours later on the murder charge, and a police affidavit says that Ammons acknowledged that he shot Gaynor with a paintball gun while another assailant struck the man with a baseball bat.
Hooks and Daugherty have refused to give a statement to police. But another police affidavit quotes two unidentified witnesses to the Gaynor attack as saying that Daugherty struck the victim with a bat while Hooks, also carrying a bat, "stood by." The witnesses did not see Hooks deliver any blows, but they also fled shortly after the attack began, according to police.
Hooks' attorney, Jeremy Kroll, said those statements show that Hooks should not be charged with murder.
"There are two witnesses to that event and they are affirmatively saying that Brian did not strike Norris Gaynor," Kroll said.
Despite those witness statements, Broward County Magistrate Judge Steven DeLuca on Tuesday ordered Hooks held without bail on charges of murder and aggravated battery. Hooks appeared briefly via video hookup at a hearing, saying only "yes" when the judge asked him a procedural question.
Ammons is scheduled to make an initial court appearance today.
Under prosecutors' legal theory, Hooks can be charged with murder anyway because he "aided and abetted" the killing possibly by serving as a lookout. Ammons can be charged under the same legal principle, even if his paintball shot didn't cause Gaynor's death.
But Kroll said the witness statements show that Hooks was not directly responsible for Gaynor's death.
"Right now, the charges that have been brought against Brian are not reflective of his culpability," Kroll said.
Gregory said the entire case will be presented before a grand jury and that charges against the three could change. He also said the investigation is continuing and that more arrests are possible.
Daugherty, still a juvenile, was ordered held for 21 days in juvenile detention and will be given a psychological examination. No decision has been announced by prosecutors on whether Daugherty will be tried as an adult.
The case has been assigned to Broward County Circuit Judge Cynthia Imperato.

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