Four charged with attempted murder after witness shot through throat

This crime scene photograph is of the attempted murder of a witness to a crime. Three men have been arrested and charged with attempted murder and witness intimidation. Credit: Philadelphia D.A.'s Office
This crime scene photograph is from the scene of the shooting of a witness who intended to testify about a gun crime. Three men have been arrested and charged with attempted murder and witness intimidation. Credit: PPD

Prosecutors announced today that four men who allegedly conspired to shoot a witness through the throat to prevent him from testifying were arrested and charged with attempted murder and witness intimidation.

“Witness intimidation in many ways corrodes our system and prevents defendants from coming to justice,” D.A. Williams said at a press conference announcing the arrests, calling the witness who was shot for his attempts to testify in court “a true hero.”

Aki Jones, 37, Charles Alexander, 35, Troy Cooper, 42 and Shaheed Williams, 21, were all charged with attempted murder, witness intimidation, aggravated assault and conspiracy.

According to prosecutors, the case arose when Jones witnessed a violent altercation between a group of women on Turner Street.

One of the  women was Jones’s goddaughter, according to court documents.

Jones, who had an illegal handgun, fired his weapon into the air several times to attract the women’s attention and end the fight.

A witness called 911 and reported the shooting, which led to the arrest of Jones, who was charged with firearm and related offenses, according to prosecutors.

Jones faced a misdemeanor charge of gun possession which could have resulted in a sentence ranging from probation to a maximum of five years in prison in city court, according to D.A. Williams.

The day before trial was set to begin against Jones, two of his associates — Alexander and Cooper — allegedly approached the witness and offered him $500 to not testify at trial. The witness refused.

The next day, on the morning of Sept. 26, 2011, Williams allegedly shot at the witness several times as he left his house near the intersection of 25th and Jefferson streets.

Williams allegedly aimed at the witness’s head, and the first bullet hit the witness in the hand as he lifted it to block his face from the shot.

As the witness tried to run, Williams allegedly fired two more times, striking the witness and knocking him down, then stood over the witness and allegedly said, “You won’t talk no more,” then fired a bullet that went straight through the witness’s throat but did not touch his spinal cord.

Aki Jones, Troy Cooper, and Shaheed Williams.
From left, Aki Jones, Troy Cooper, and Shaheed Williams. Credit: PPD

The witness survived the shooting, is currently in witness protection through the efforts of D.A. Williams and the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), and is expected to testify against the four at trial.

“He wanted to come forward because he wanted to clean up his neighborhood,” said ATF Special Agent in Charge Sam Rabadi of the witness in this case.

“There’s no bad blocks in this city or in these neighborhoods. What you have is bad individuals holding these neighborhoods hostage, and they rely on this ‘no-snitch’ mentality,” Rabadi continued. ”Our number one priority is always going to be cases related to witness intimidation and retaliation.”

Jones and Williams were arrested today by ATF agents. Williams and Jones were already incarcerated for unrelated cases.

Despite the attack on this witness, Jones’ original gun case from the night he fired the gun into the air was adopted by the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, he pled guilty, and was sentenced to five years in prison.

According to documents filed for Jones’ appeal of his gun verdict, Jones’ criminal record includes a 2009 gun possession arrest, and allegations of involvement in the 2008 shooting of basketball referee Benjamin Wright in the back leg and buttocks, allegedly because Jones, who played in the game, was angered by the calls Wright was making.

Witness intimidation charges in Philly

2011 — 882

2012 — 860

2013 — 782

2014 — 145

2011-present: 2669

Source: D.A.’s Office

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Follow Sam Newhouse on Twitter: @scnewhouse

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