A Fresno gang member was found guilty Wednesday of fatally shooting an unarmed man outside a convenience store in August 2012.
The Fresno County Superior Court jury deliberated four hours before finding Dijonte Johnson, 23, guilty of first-degree murder in the killing of 21-year-old Jamal Rashad Muhammad.
Jurors also said that Johnson did it to promote the Modoc Boys street gang.
Johnson faces at least 75 years to life in prison when he is sentenced on June 2, prosecutor Noelle Pebet said.
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This was not a whodunit. This was why did he do it?
Defense attorney Eric Green
Muhammad was gunned down in the parking lot of the Bag-O-Bag convenience store at Olive and Cedar avenues in southeast Fresno in the late evening hours of Aug. 10, 2012, the same day Johnson turned 19, court records say.
Pebet said the victim was not a member of a street gang. But he was with his cousin, Jovan Beard, who’s associated with the 107 Hoover Crips street gang, the prosecutor told the jury during the trial.
According to Pebet, Muhammad and Beard were in the store when they exchanged “looks and head nods” with Johnson and his friend, Bryant “BJ” Jefferies, who is a member of the Dog Pound street gang.
After both groups left the store, Johnson confronted Beard and Muhammad in the parking lot. Johnson then removed a revolver from his pocket and fired several rounds at Muhammad, killing him, Pebet told the jury.
Johnson ran from the scene, but later turned himself into police.
Jamal Muhammad, 21, was gunned down outside the Bag-O-Bag convenience store at Olive and Cedar avenues in southeast Fresno in the evening hours of Aug. 10, 2012.
Court records say Johnson has a prior robbery conviction from May 2010.
In a recorded interview, he told Fresno police detective Ignacio Ruiz that he was at the store when Muhammad was shot. Johnson, however, told the detective that he was holding a cell phone – not a gun. He also told Ruiz that the gunshots came from a nearby bus stop.
During the trial, however, Johnson admitted to accidentally shooting Muhammad. He told the jury that he believed Muhammad was taking a gun out of his waistband and was going to shoot him.
But Pebet argued that the shooting was not an accident since Johnson fired four rounds at the victim. A surveillance video from inside the store also showed Johnson standing near Muhammad. In the video, Muhammad pulled up his T-shirt to wipe his face. Pebet said the video exposed Muhammad’s stomach, thereby proving the victim didn’t have a gun.
Defense attorney Eric Green, who defended Johnson, however, said Johnson didn’t see Muhammad wipe his face with his T-shirt.
Green said there was no doubt that Johnson fatally shot Muhammad because witnesses saw him do it. In addition, a store surveillance camera shows Johnson and Muhammad in the parking lot, but not the shooting itself.
The victim was fatally shot on the gunman’s 19th birthday, court records say.
Green also said the evidence showed it was a gang killing.
“This was not a whodunit,” Green said. “This was why did he do it?”
Green said Johnson had no prior run-ins with Muhammad and Beard. Beard, however, had a prior run-in with Jefferies, Green said.
During the trial, Green argued for a manslaughter conviction, saying Johnson feared for his life because he had an honest belief Muhammad was going to draw a gun from his waistband and shoot him.
“The jury didn’t buy it,” Green said, noting that Pebet was able to “rattle” Johnson on the witness stand.
Before leaving the courthouse, Green said Johnson is “a good kid who grew up in jail” while waiting five years for his murder trial. Now Johnson’s future looks bleak, Green said, because of “another stupid gang shooting.”