Antonio Johnson
Antonio Johnson

Accused murderer Antonio M. Johnson and close friend Rudolph "Novi" Mendoza IV carried out "a cold-blooded ambush" two years ago that left two people with gunshot wounds and one man dead, chief deputy prosecutor David Maisch told jurors Monday.

But Mendoza, 23, of West Manchester Township, isn't sitting at the defense table where he should be, Maisch said, because he was the man killed that night.

Mendoza stepped into Johnson's line of fire as both friends popped out of a breezeway near the corner of South Queen and East Princess streets and shot Angel Rengifo and Brandon DeJesus about 4:30 a.m. Sept. 18, 2011, the prosecutor told jurors during opening statements in Johnson's murder trial.

Rudolph Mendoza IV
Rudolph Mendoza IV

"It doesn't matter that the (fatal) shot fired by the defendant hit the wrong target," Maisch explained to the jury. Johnson is still guilty under the state's "transferred intent" law.

Rengifo and DeJesus survived their wounds.

Died alone: After shooting his own best friend -- a man who was like a brother to him -- Johnson and a third man who was with them ran off, Maisch said.

"(Mendoza) was crying out, 'Brother! Brother!' But they left him to die alone," Maisch said. "He choked on his own blood and died."

Defense attorney George N. Marros, in his opening statement, questioned whether York City Police fully investigated the shooting and noted DeJesus and Rengifo initially were uncooperative with detectives.

"Why are they not cooperating with police?" Marros asked. "What do they have to hide?"

He suggested DeJesus and Rengifo might have fired at Johnson and Mendoza, and said it's possible Johnson was defending himself.

According to Maisch, Mendoza had an ongoing "beef" with Rengifo. As he, Johnson and a third man were driving past the area, they saw Rengifo and decided to shoot him, the prosecutor said.

Fourteen rounds were fired by Johnson and Mendoza, according to Maisch, and there was no return fire.

Victim takes stand: Rengifo testified Monday that he, his mother, his brother and others went to a local nightclub to celebrate a friend's birthday, then went to the home of a friend at the corner of South Queen and East Princess streets.

Rengifo said he and DeJesus were standing outside when they heard multiple gunshots.

"I paused, and then simultaneously me and Brandon just burst through the (front) door ... just fell through the doorway," he testified.

Both men were taken to York Hospital in private vehicles. Rengifo suffered a gunshot wound to his hip; DeJesus suffered a wound to his back, according to testimony.

Rengifo testified neither he nor DeJesus had guns, and he said he didn't see anyone else firing a gun either.

He also said he doesn't know the defendant and doesn't know why he was allegedly targeted by Mendoza and Johnson.

Johnson, 22, of the 500 block of Prospect Street, remains in prison, charged with first- and third-degree murder, two counts each of attempted murder and aggravated assault and criminal conspiracy.

Victim shot before: Police said the homicide is not related to Mendoza's non-fatal shooting, which happened about two weeks before he was killed.

Mendoza was shot in the buttocks while in the city's Parkway neighborhood about 2:40 a.m. Sept. 9, 2011.

He fled the scene and was found by officers a short time later, lying on the sidewalk in the 600 block of North Hartley Street.

Police have said Mendoza would not cooperate with officers trying to investigate.

-- Staff writer Liz Evans Scolforo can also be reached at levans@yorkdispatch.com.