Identity questioned in murder trial of alleged burka-wearing shooter and accomplices
The murder trial for two suspects charged with shooting a 19-year-old man to death in 2008 allegedly over a dice game gone bad started Thursday with testimony from a local woman who called 911 after seeing one suspect get out of a car dressed in female Islamic garb.
Jamil Banks, 30, and Qentin Salmond, 28, are on trial for the murder of Kenneth Wiggins, 19, which occurred about 12:40 p.m. on Saturday, April 12, 2008 — a violent weekend during which five other men were murdered in separate incidents around the city.
Bernard Salmond, 29, Qentin’s brother, is also charged with the murder for allegedly driving a getaway vehicle, but his case has been severed from the others. He is scheduled to go on trial later this month.
Prosecutor Peter Lim said the motive for the killing was revenge.
Qentin Salmond allegedly won an undisclosed but significant sum of cash in a dice game from Wiggins a few days before the murder, but Wiggins strong-armed Salmond and took the money back.
A businesswoman who worked near the scene of the murder testified today that she called police as soon as she saw a vehicle pull over at the corner of Chew and Landsdowne avenues and a man get out wearing female Islamic clothing, she testified.
The witness described the suspect as being covered from head to toe, his face garbed with a kimar and wearing sunglasses over his eyes, and also wearing a long dress, but said she knew it was a man from his “gait.”
“I knew it wasn’t Halloween. I knew there was no reason for a man to be dressed up as a woman. I knew that something was going to happen,” she testified.
Lim played a tape of the woman’s call to a skeptical 911 operator, in which the witness said, “They left the car running. I don’t know if they’re gonna rob someone. …You need to send a police officer because something’s going to happen!”
In a second 911 call made minutes later, the witness can be heard shouting, “They’re shooting! … I told them they was gonna rob somebody!”
The witness did not see the actual shooting, which occurred down Chew Avenue, outside the Skyline Diner.
Qentin Salmond, who was allegedly wearing the female Muslim garb, his brother Bernard, and Banks allegedly spotted Wiggins on Chew Avenue, where he was ordering food from the diner, then pulled over and got out of the car.
In surveillance footage played at trial, a man allegedly identified as Banks entered the diner, bought a Mountain Dew, left and then waited in the vestibule of an adjacent medical office.
When Wiggins walked by, Banks allegedly ran out of the vestibule and up behind Wiggins, attacking him.
Salmond allegedly then ran out of the vestibule and towards the other men, and at that point allegedly shot Wiggins once in the chest, fatally wounding him, before Salmond and Banks allegedly fled to their blue Lincoln vehicle down the block and drove off.
Banks’ defense attorney James Berardinelli says his client was wrongly identified, cannot be positively identified in surveillance footage of the diner, and questioned a fingerprint identification of Banks off the Mountain Dew bottle found at the crime scene.
Testimony is scheduled to continue tomorrow.
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