Crime

Court: Additional suspects plead not guilty to deadly Riverland Drive shooting

Sarah Robinson

srobinson@ledger-enquirer.com

Dantrell Sims
Dantrell Sims

Two of the four people charged in the Dec. 16 shooting at Riverwind Apartments that killed one man and seriously wounded another appeared in Columbus Recorder's Court this morning.

Kenjerald Jordan and Dantrell Sims, who were allegedly seen fleeing from the scene, pleaded not guilty to one count each of murder, aggravated assault, possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime and two counts criminal attempt armed robbery.

They join Jaleel Kenyard Merritt and Jacorion Tremayne Gary, who pleaded not guilty to the same charges Monday in addition to one count of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

None of the suspects testified in court.

Columbus Police Sgt. Joseph Hart said authorities were called to the shooting at 1811 Riverland Drive on Dec. 16 around 3:45 p.m.

When officials arrived on the scene, they found 22-year-old Darwyn Jaleel Taylor of Columbus behind the wheel of a vehicle with multiple gunshot wounds, including at least one to the head. He was pronounced dead on the scene minutes later at 4:28 p.m., Muscogee County Coroner Buddy Bryan said.

Officials said they found Taylor's 24-year-old godbrother suffering from multiple gunshot wounds at a Ramsey Road residence nearby. He was transported to Columbus Midtown Medical Center for emergency treatment but has since been released, police testifed.

Hart said Taylor drove his 24-year-old godbrother to the Riverland Apartments, so his brother could buy a gun from Gary.

Gary and at least one other individual met with the victims behind the apartment complex. Gary allegedly got into the backseat of a vehicle occupied by the victims while a second individual stood directly outside of the car.

According to police, Gary negotiated the price of the gun with the victims but refused to give the older victim the weapon when he asked for it. Gary pistol-whipped Taylor in the head before there was a struggle over the gun in which Taylor and his godbrother were shot, police stated in court.

Hart said the older victim was leaving the vehicle when another suspect shot him.

Police said they recovered two guns on the scene but have yet to determine who was the second shooter.

The surviving victim said he was running away from the scene when he spotted Jaleel Merritt driving a gray Honda Civic on Riverland Drive, Hart testified.

 Jaleel Merritt was seen at separate location earlier that day, before the shooting, with Gary and two other men. At least one of those men, aside from Jaleel Merritt and Gary, was wearing a camouflage jacket, police added.

"He recognized Jaleel from a previous altercation that occurred several hours earlier," the detective said.

According to police, Jaleel Merritt is Gary's known "criminal associate."

Hart said a special enforcement police officer was behind a former Winn-Dixie on South Lumpkin Road when he heard multiple gunshots. About five to eight minutes later, he saw a gray Honda Civic drive behind the closed business severals times, pull up close to the woodline and pick up three men who exited the woods, according to police testimony.

The officer pursued the vehicle but it got away, Hart testified.

Police believe that the individuals who exited the woods fled from the scene of the shooting, and Jaleel Merritt was the driver of the getaway vehicle. Officials obtained felony warrants for Jaleel Merritt and Gary.

Officials went to a Torch Hill Road residence where they were told the wanted suspects could be found. Officials announced their presence upon arrival and stated that they had warrants for the men, Hart said.

Officers heard a commotion in the home and were able to make entry into the residence about five minutes later, Hart said. Police said they found Darecco Merritt in the residence with the two wanted suspects. All three individuals were arrested in the home around around 9:10 p.m. Friday.

Darecco Merritt was charged with hindering the apprehension of fugitives, which he pleaded not guilty to Monday in Recorder's Court.

Hart said the suspects were incarcerated when a concerned citizen informed police that Jordan, 16, and Sims, 20, were with Gary minutes after the deadly shooting.

Police identified them as two of the individuals who were picked up in the Honda Civic behind the former Winn-Dixie building shortly after the shooting. Warrants were obtained for their arrests.

Hart said Jordan was taken into custody Tuesday at a Ticknor Drive residence, and Sims was apprehended Wednesday at his Lamore Drive home, where police found a weapon and two camouflage jackets.

Hart said Jordan told police he was at school of the time of the incident, but the Muscogee County School District stated that he was not. Sims didn't give police a statement.

Judge Michael Joyner ordered that Jordan and Sims be held in the Muscogee County Jail without bond and bound the case over to Superior Court.

— Sarah is a crime & safety reporter at The Ledger-Enquirer. You can contact her on Twitter at @SarahR_92.

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