Uncooperative witnesses mean dropped charges in York City shooting


Prosecutors dropped felony charges against a York City man accused of repeatedly shooting his next-door neighbor because neither witnesses nor the victim himself would cooperate in the criminal case against William McKinley Gilliam III.

"We had no cooperating witnesses at all ... from day one," senior deputy prosecutor Kelley Nelson said.

Gilliam, 33, who at the time of the shooting lived in an apartment in the first block of North East Street, had been charged with aggravated assault, being a convicted felon in illegal possession of a firearm and reckless endangerment.

According to court documents, Gilliam used a .40-caliber handgun to shoot Jeffrey Colon, then 20 years old, three times about 4:30 p.m. April 4 in the block where both men lived.

Critically hurt: Colon was struck in the neck and chest and suffered critical injuries, court documents state.

Colon's live-in girlfriend at that time, Bianca Ortiz, told police that Gilliam — whom she dated for about five months before getting together with Colon — threatened several times to physically harm them the day of the shooting, documents state.

Gilliam has accused the couple of stealing from him, police said.

Ortiz told investigators she and Colon were sitting in their parked car and saw Gilliam in the front seat of a car across East Street from them, documents state.

She said Colon walked up to the car to tell Gilliam that he and Ortiz hadn't stolen from him, at which point she heard several gunshots, according to court documents.

After the shooting, she saw both Gilliam and Colon running away on foot, police said.

No cooperation: But Colon would not cooperate with prosecutors, and neither would the several witnesses in the area at the time, according to Nelson.

"It's essentially one of those things where (you have to decide) ... do you expend resources on a jury trial when you know you have an uncooperative victim and uncooperative witnesses," she said. "And because they haven't been cooperative from the beginning, we don't even know what they would say."

Reluctant witnesses could perjure themselves, refuse to testify or even invoke their Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate themselves, according to Nelson.

"None of those is an ideal situation," she said.

Gilliam made statements to police at the time of his arrest, Nelson confirmed.

"I would not characterize them as a confession," she said, adding Colon did not attend Gilliam's preliminary hearing.

Nelson acknowledged the case was frustrating but said the prosecution was able to secure a partial guilty plea.

On probation: Gilliam pleaded guilty Wednesday to reckless endangerment and was sentenced to two years of probation, according to court records.

He also was sentenced to 200 days to 23 months in prison for violating probation on his 2010 drug-dealing conviction in York County, records state. People violate the terms of their probation and parole when they incur new charges, and Gilliam's probation was violated after he was charged with shooting Colon. The two sentences are consecutive to each other.

"So out of this we have a conviction, a PV (probation violation sentence), and he'll be on supervision for three years," Nelson said.

Gilliam's public defender, Ron Jackson Jr., said Gilliam is doing well on probation supervision.

"He is just looking forward to moving on from this case and returning to his job," Jackson wrote in a text message.

Nelson said it's not infrequent that victims and witnesses of York City crimes decline to cooperate with authorities.

Gilliam's 2010 drug-dealing case makes him a convicted felon. That was the basis for the firearms charge initially lodged against him.

— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at levans@yorkdispatch.com.