WILKES-BARRE – A group of people supporting an alleged gunman wore matching t-shirts as they sat through a homicide hearing, next to family members and friends of a man shot and killed back in April.
Following testimony from four people at the preliminary hearing in Wilkes-Barre on Friday, a district magistrate decided that there was enough evidence against Shauntae Thomas to send the open count of criminal homicide to trial.
Authorities say the shooting was sparked by a fight involving teenagers on Coal Street and Reno Lane in late-April.
Prosecutors say Thomas found his son bloody and motionless on the ground following the brawl, then allegedly shot at the father of the teenager who hit Thomas’ son.
“He shot him actually while he was running; shot him in the back of the head. It’s a little tough to make a self-defense claim there,” said Assistant District Attorney Sam Sanguedolce. “Not only that, the person that assaulted the son is actually not the victim in this case, so he shot someone else.”
Defense Attorney Peter Moses said he will file additional motions in an attempt to have the open count of criminal homicide dismissed, because the charge would allow prosecutors to pursue the case as murder.
“Multiple witnesses testified that Shauntae Thomas himself said that he was overcome with emotion,” said Moses. “He lost his emotions and his emotions took over. You pick up any legal text book in America and that’s not first degree murder and that’s not second degree murder.”
Janice Watson-Holmes was one of ten people wearing black t-shirts wearing “Free Tae” at the hearing, in support of Thomas.
“I did get to see him in prison. He’s suffering. He’s suffering and I don’t think he needs to suffer so much more,” said Watson-Holmes.
Nearly a dozen relatives and friends of the shooting victim also sat in court, including Derrick Cottle’s widow.
“Shauntae Thomas just shot him. He killed him. He murdered him. My husband didn’t have no weapons. He shot him when his back was turned in the back of his head,” said Seleena Cottle. “He was a good man. He was a great father to his children. He ran his own company, he took care of us; family first.”
According to friends, Thomas’ son has recovered from his injuries after the alleged fight earlier this year.
Thomas remains locked up in the Luzerne County Jail.