Just what set off the bickering and threats on a chilly February night in 2013 wasn’t at all clear. Someone may have said something on Facebook.
Whatever it was, the angry back-and-forth between two groups of young people — one at least 15 members strong, the other just a handful — headed up Canal Street toward the Iberville housing complex . Kevannah Griffin’s friend, Koshia Morgan, disappeared in the crowd.
So Griffin, who was 17 at the time, set off looking for her friend, a decision that would cost her the ability to walk after she was shot three times at the corner of St. Louis and Crozat streets.
Now paralyzed, Griffin rolled her wheelchair into an Orleans Parish courtroom on Thursday, draped in a leopard-print overcoat, where she testified tearfully about the shooting.
Griffin said she was certain it was Sade “Ceedy” Hickman who leaned out of the back window of a truck and fired the 40-caliber handgun that dropped her to the pavement. Hickman, who was 16 at the time, faces an attempted murder charge in a trial that began Wednesday.
“They pulled up and she rolled down her window and that’s when I saw her. And the boys and the girls in the car with her say, ‘Hit that b****. Get that b****. Shoot that ho,’ ” Griffin told a jury, her face pale, with dark shadows circling her eyes.
“She leaned out the window and was like, ‘I got you now, b****,’ and shot me.”
Griffin said she was frozen by shock when she saw the gun, able only to lift her arm to her forehead. That’s how the shots hit her under her arm, she said.
“I’ll never walk again because the bullet exploded in my spine,” she said doctors told her.
When a police detective showed her a photo lineup, she said, “I knew it was her because I won’t forget who you are.”
Hickman sat silently on the other side of the courtroom in a black suit, occasionally looking over as Griffin testified for more than an hour.
She faces at least a decade behind bars and possibly several if she’s convicted; her trial is expected to conclude Friday.
Defense attorneys John Fuller and Gregory Carter sought to cast doubt on the certainty of Griffin and another key prosecution witness, Loreal Blackwell, who testified earlier in the day that she had heard a commotion outside her home and seen a man fire into the air, then hand a gun to Hickman. Blackwell said she ran to Griffin’s aid as she lay bleeding and breathless on the street.
The attorneys seemed to suggest a two-fold defense for Hickman: that there’s no clear evidence she was the shooter, and that she was part of a small group that was being menaced and tracked up Canal Street by a much larger crowd.
Griffin acknowledged that at some point, not far from where she was shot, she accepted a Taser from someone she claimed she didn’t know.
Griffin said she was hanging out on Canal Street with a friend and their boyfriends when she ran into another friend who was part of the larger group that was in a verbal scrap. She testified that she never knew Hickman before that night and only by her nickname.
She said Blackwell “kept asking, ‘Who shot you?’ and the little breath I did have left, I told her ‘Ceedy.’ ”
Under questioning from Fuller, Griffin said she held the Taser for only a few minutes, while insisting that she wasn’t part of either of the groups that scrapped that night.
“If it would have been in my possession, it would have been on the ground when she shot me down like a dog,” Griffin said. “When I hit the ground, I’m trying to save myself. I’m dying. She got away. I couldn’t get up and walk for help.”
Assistant District Attorneys Elizabeth Kilian and William Macke are prosecuting the case for District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office, which elected to try Hickman as an adult.
A co-defendant, 17-year-old Hakeem Smith, pleaded guilty in August to an accessory count and accepted a five-year prison sentence.
Blackwell, the witness who came to Griffin’s aid, acknowledged that she was testifying reluctantly and was not completely sure of her account.
She gave conflicting descriptions, from police interviews to her time on the witness stand, aboutr the color of the shooter’s clothes. And she testified Thursday that Hickman was part of the larger group of 15 or more kids, contradicting other testimony in the case.
Blackwell said she was now “72 out of 100” that Hickman was the shooter.
Prosecutors rested their case late Thursday, and Criminal District Court Judge Camille Buras sent the jury out of the courtroom as Hickman, who turned 18 last month, considered whether she would take the witness stand in her own defense
She decided against it, leaving closing arguments in the case to begin Friday morning.
Follow John Simerman on Twitter, @johnsimerman.