District Court Judge Kevin Eddinger did not give in to the pleas of the attorney representing DaJuan Russell, a 17-year-old charged a month ago with shooting Salisbury High School freshman Shaleek Williams. In February during Russell’s first court appearance, Eddinger increased to $1 million the bond that had originally been set at $250,000.
Wednesday morning the judge denied the request of Salisbury Attorney Steve Gray for a much lower bond in the case. Eddinger kept the same bond. Russell, who is not a Salisbury student, was charged with assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill inflicting serious injury, possession of a firearm on school property and discharging a weapon on school property, all felonies.
Williams, 16, was shot outside the school’s gym at point-blank-range in the abdomen. Although the victim doesn’t remember it, officials say he was punched first and then shot. He was rushed to the hospital by a parent. He was treated and released the same night.
Upon Russell’s arrest Feb. 10, a Rowan County magistrate set the bond at $250,000 and a few days later, during Russell’s first court appearance, Eddinger increased it. Two weeks later, Gray requested a bond reduction. A probable cause hearing was scheduled to take place Monday, but court records show District Court Judge Beth Dixon recused herself.
Assistant District Attorney Barrett Poppler played a video recorded the day of the shooting by someone using a cellphone. The video was shown to the judge and was only visible to Eddinger, Poppler and Gray. People could be heard chatting before the shooting. One shot was fired and a girl on the video could be heard repeatedly saying, “Oh my God.”
Gray asked for a bond around $25,000 or $50,000. He told the court his client was not a flight risk, saying he had no passport, did not have a job and was not a student at the high school. Gray said his client’s aunt has guardianship over him and that his father worked in Davidson County. Shenita Russell, DaJuan’s aunt, was in the courtroom and has been at every hearing.
Gray told the judge he realized the bond he was requesting was a long reach from the $1 million that was set last month.
The attorney said Russell is scared and a reduced bond would allow the teen to help Gray defend his case.
Gray said he wanted the opportunity to speak with the judge since he was not in attendance at Russell’s first court appearance. Gray was appointed to represent the teen during his first appearance but was not in the courtroom at the time.
“Nothing in this defendant’s background indicates violence,” Gray said.
The attorney said the handgun was not found on Russell and has not been recovered by law enforcement. Gray said Russell was cooperative with law enforcement, but he never confessed to the crime. Investigators found Russell hours after the shooting at a relative’s house.
Gray told the court Williams was shot, jumped into a parent’s car, was treated and released from the hospital the same night and by 7 p.m. was on the nightly news.
“He wasn’t shot multiple times. As it is my understanding, it was one time,” Gray said.
Williams and his mother, Kim, told a Post reporter hours after the shooting he was trying to prevent a fight between Russell and a friend of his. The fight began following a weekend party and continued that Monday.
Gray said there was a question about whether it was his client who fired the gun.
Poppler requested the bond stay the same, saying the evidence was overwhelming in the case. Poppler said six people have identified Russell as the shooter and his office had been in contact with three more people who gave descriptions matching Russell as the shooter.
Gray argued there are often issues with eyewitness accounts because sometimes witnesses report different details.
“By all accounts our victim was a peacemaker in the situation,” Poppler said.
Poppler said if the bullet that struck Williams had been a little higher or an inch lower, Russell could’ve been facing murder charges.
He said Russell was not a student and had no reason to be on campus. Russell’s behavior was “wildly dangerous and reckless,” Poppler said.
The prosecutor refuted Gray’s theory that there was a question whether Russell fired the gun. Poppler said Russell was seen firing the gun, dropping and then picking it up before he ran from the area.
The Williamses told Poppler they did not want the bond lowered and supported the current bond. Shaleek and his family didn’t want to attend court unless they had to, Poppler said.
A probable cause hearing is slated for April 16.
Contact Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253.
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