Having just been robbed at gunpoint along with three others and told he was now free to leave, two thoughts ran through David Gradnigo's mind on July 27, 2014, as he turned around and crossed Greenwell Street with the robbers still holding two women captive.
"I hope I don't die tonight," Gradnigo recalled thinking, as he testified Monday at the trial for Andre Young on two dozen counts stemming from a 3½-hour crime wave, "and I hope those girls don't die tonight."
Gradnigo, the two sisters, and numerous others all survived those terrifying hours on that Sunday morning when, prosecutors say, Young, then 19, committed a rash of serious crimes within the city of Baton Rouge and parish of East Baton Rouge.
Young, now 23, is charged with 10 counts of armed robbery, six counts of attempted armed robbery, and two counts each of aggravated rape, second-degree kidnapping, attempted second-degree murder and simple burglary. He allegedly shot and wounded two men.
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Gradnigo testified that he and friend Anthony Shaffer were walking the two sisters back to the sisters' car after meeting up with them at an after-hours facility when several armed men demanded that they "give it up."
Gradnigo said he complied, turning over cash, cellphone and jewelry to the robbers in a parking lot on Greenwell near McClelland Drive. Four of Young's armed robbery counts involve Gradnigo, Shaffer and the two women, who also had their possessions taken from them.
At one point Shaffer made a run for it, only to be hit by a truck while he fled. He limped into state District Judge Richard Anderson's courtroom Monday and testified he remembers getting struck by the truck and waking up in a hospital, but recalls little if anything about the armed robbery.
Gradnigo said he banged on doors at a nearby apartment complex after being allowed to leave, seeking help for the women still being held captive.
Young is accused of abducting both of them on Greenwell Street and raping them at Evangeline Park, a BREC facility. One of the women, who is 42, testified Friday. Her younger sister, 32, testified Monday and said the ordeal was terrifying.
The younger woman said she could have escaped when Young stopped the car he stole from them to buy gas before reaching the park, but she said she could not abandon her older sister.
"I didn't want to leave my sister with him," she said. Her sister testified the same way Friday.
Young faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison if found guilty of aggravated rape. The trial is expected to conclude later this week.