- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 16, 2000

The 11-year-old shot in the head outside the National Zoo last month was not the intended target, but was within the "kill zone" of Antoine B. Jones, who was shooting at another youth, a District of Columbia Superior Court judge said yesterday.

"Horrifying enough in the United States today we have all too many instances where individuals shoot indiscriminately and kill or injure many people," said Judge Noel Kramer, who ordered Mr. Jones be held without bail.

"I find it is an intent to kill … the 11-year-old boy who happened to be in the kill zone," Judge Kramer said.

Mr. Jones, 16, is charged as an adult with assault with intent to murder while armed in the April 24 shooting in which seven children were wounded. If convicted, he could be sentenced to life in prison.

Judge Kramer noted there is enough evidence to show that Mr. Jones was "at the zoo, stepped off the curb and fired shots indiscriminately at a group of people across the street." She set his trial for Sept. 12.

The most seriously wounded, Harris Bates, 11, was shot in the head as he was leaving the National Zoo's 2000 African-American Family Celebration on Easter Monday.

Testimony during yesterday's hearing depicted Harris as an innocent bystander. He is in serious condition at Children's National Medical Center.

Harris' mother, Gillian Bates, attended Mr. Jones' preliminary hearing yesterday.

"I'm glad they are sending him back to jail, but that does not change that I have a son laying in a hospital bed with a bullet in his head," she said.

Metropolitan Police Detective Ralph Durant testified yesterday that Mr. Jones was trying to shoot James Thomas, 17, who had been arguing with Mr. Jones inside the zoo.

The detective said the group of teens with Mr. Jones "ran ahead" of the group with James.

Mr. Jones' group left the zoo and walked across Connecticut Avenue NW directly opposite the zoo's entrance, Detective Durant said. When James left the zoo, Mr. Jones stepped off the sidewalk into an open parking space and fired four times across the wide expanse of asphalt at James, who began running away.

One bullet struck Harris in the head. Six other children, including James, apparently were wounded by bullets or bullet fragments and were treated at hospitals and released. James was struck in the hand.

Detective Durant testified Friday that Mr. Jones had taunted a group of children at the zoo because a member of the group had been beaten up by another group. He said four witnesses saw Mr. Jones pull up his shirt several times to reveal the 9 mm handgun in his waistband during the argument.

Detective Durant said witnesses saw Mr. Jones standing on the sidewalk on the west side of Connecticut Avenue as visitors were leaving the zoo on the east side of the street.

"[The witness] saw [Mr. Jones] step from the curb, point his weapon at the group coming out of the zoo and fire his weapon," the detective said.

Mr. Jones' court-appointed defense attorneys, Renee Raymond and Jack Berman, argued there was no proof that their client intended to kill James.

But Judge Kramer disagreed.

Mr. Jones had been charged with one count of assault with intent to murder Harris; yesterday, Assistant U.S. Attorneys Mike Ambrosino and Jeb Boasberg added an identical charge of assault against James.

Detective Durant testified that police interviewed Mr. Jones about five minutes after the shooting in the 2800 block of Connecticut Avenue NW about two blocks from the zoo.

Mr. Jones was released after police officers searched him, the three persons with him and the station wagon they were in. They did not find a gun.

Mr. Jones was arrested the next day, but the handgun has not been recovered, Detective Durant said.

Mr. Jones is the son of James Antonio Jones, who was the main enforcer for convicted drug kingpin Rayful Edmond III. Edmond ran the city's largest cocaine sales operation near the Trinidad neighborhood where Mr. Jones grew up.

Mr. Jones' father was convicted in 1989 for conspiracy to distribute cocaine and is in a federal prison in Texas.

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