Second Masonic Hall suspect’s fate in jury’s hands

Tracy Manzer (Press Telegram) | September 10, 2010

LONG BEACH – Prosecutors branded a 22-year-old Bellflower man a revenge-seeking ki*ler and street-savvy shot caller who opened fire on hundreds of teens at a birthday party in 2008, and who pulled the strings of another shooter charged in the same deadly fray.

Jonzel Stringer, then 19, was furious after being punched in the face during a fight inside the Lakewood Masonic Hall on Jan. 19, 2008, a site in East Long Beach rented by a Compton family to provide their twin 18-year-old sons with a safe venue to celebrate their birthdays, prosecutors argued Friday.

Stringer and his co-defendant, Izac McCloud, had faced off against some gang rivals inside the party and when Stringer was punched in the face he ran from the jam-packed hall, grabbed a loaded 9mm semi-automatic handgun from McCloud and pulled the trigger two times, Deputy District Attorney Emily Spear argued.

Stringer also urged McCloud to open fire, yelling “Get ’em,” “End the party,” “Scare ’em,” and “Just shoot in the air,” before then 16-year-old McCloud took the gun and squeezed off eight more shots, she said.

A total of 10 shots were fired from the same weapon. Three rounds hit a trio of teenagers who were inside the party and the remaining bullets struck the hall’s walls, doors and a nearby car, ballistic experts testified.

ki*led that night were Breon Taylor, 15, and Dennis Moses Jr., 17.

Also shot was a 17-year-old Paramount boy, who survived but who couldn’t play basketball for more than two years due to his extensive injury.

Stringer and McCloud are charged with attempted murder for that teen’s shooting and are charged with the attempted murders of 45 other teens, all of whom were determined to be in the “ki*l zone” as the defendants sprayed the packed venue and a line of kids waiting outside the hall with gunfire.

During closing arguments Friday, Spear and Co-Prosecutor Karen Thorp cited dozens of witnesses called to testify that ranged from friends of the defendants and the victims to police officers and school staffers from Jordan High School, where McCloud was suspended shortly before the kil#i*gg for attacking people on and off campus.

They detailed the events through dozens of witness accounts and more than 100 items of evidence and told jurors that Stringer continued to be a threat when he told friends who were gang members to take out the prosecution’s star witness.

Defense Attorney Anthony Robusto countered the prosecution’s case by focusing on the inconsistencies in various witnesses’ statements and vigorously attacking the credibility of the prosecution’s key witnesses.

It was a tactic similar to that used by McCloud’s defense attorney the previous day during his closing arguments.

However Robusto also leveled serious accusations that some of the witnesses, including authorities, had at the least withheld information in the case and, at worst, lied to set up his client.

After more than two years on the case, Robusto charged, he heard for the first time last week a tape from the Long Beach Police Department’s Homicide Detail in which a key witness told detectives that he heard Stringer yell at McCloud to “end the party, shoot in the air.”

It also wasn’t until they were in trial that Robusto heard about that same witness telling a school gang officer, employed by the school district, that Stringer actually used a gun in the attack, Robusto said.

“The first issue you have is decide do I believe it, does it pblank the smell test … why now and why so late,” Robusto asked.

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