Witness in York gang homicide trial: 'Someone had to die'
AUG. 26, 2016 UPDATE:
Convicted murderers Elvin Mateo Jr. and Durell Cotton Jr. are scheduled to be sentenced in York County Court at 1:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 29, for first-degree murder.
The sentencing is a formality, because in Pennsylvania the only possible sentence for adults convicted of first-degree murder is life in prison without the possibility of parole.
York City Police have said the October 2013 murder of Jordan Breeland was part of an ongoing beef between members of the Parkway and Southside gangs.
Mateo and Cotton are affiliated with the city's Southside gang and hung out on Liberty Court, selling drugs, according to testimony.
The Parkway and Southside gangs have clashed violently for decades, including a 2009 drive-by shooting in which 9-year-old Ciara "CeCe" Savage of Lancaster was fatally shot by a stray bullet while playing on a sidewalk in Southside territory.
Cotton remains charged in a double homicide that happened in York City on June 12, 2015. At this point, the case is on York County Court's September trial list.
He's accused of fatally shooting brothers Angel Berrios, 21, and Abdiel "Tito" Vazquez-Soto, 19.
REPORTED MAY 19, 2016:
An ongoing "beef" between two York City gangs in the fall of 2013 turned into a war of back-and-forth drive-by shootings, one of which killed Jordan Breeland, according to a Southsider who took the witness stand Wednesday against his friends, the accused killers.
Breeland, 21, a member of the Parkway gang, was fatally shot in the chest Oct. 15, 2013, York City Police have said. Charged with first-degree murder in his death are Elvin Mateo Jr. and Durell Cotton Jr. The men's trial began Tuesday in York County Court.
Breeland was in a car with Davon "YB" Brown when he was fatally shot, and Brown suffered gunshot wounds to his hands, police have said. Mateo and Cotton are also charged with attempted homicide and aggravated assault in Brown's shooting.
After taking the witness stand Wednesday, Raymond Bruno-Carrasquillo was asked to describe a typical day for him, Mateo, 22, and Cotton, 20, all of whom lived in the city's south side and hung out on Liberty Court, according to testimony:
"Wake up, go on Liberty Court and sell drugs, and the same thing, over and over," Bruno-Carrasquillo said.
"Every day?" chief deputy prosecutor David Sunday asked.
"Every day," the witness confirmed.
Bruno-Carrasquillo testified that in the days before Breeland's homicide, Mateo and Cotton took a gun from Parkway associate Shy McDowell. He told jurors that caused several Parkway members — including Brown, allegedly — to retaliate by shooting up vehicles and a home on Liberty Court.
"It was a beef from there on," Bruno-Carrasquillo told jurors. "War."
'Someone had to die': Mateo and others drove around the Parkway neighborhood looking to shoot anybody associated with the gang, according to Bruno-Carrasquillo, who said that's known as "lurking."
Mateo confessed that while lurking, he spotted McDowell and shot him, according to Bruno-Carrasquillo. But that didn't end the beef.
"(Mateo) told me that that wasn't enough, and someone had to die," the witness testified.
The next day, Bruno-Carrasquillo learned Breeland had been killed, he said.
According to Bruno-Carrasquillo, Mateo said he and Cotton were out "lurking" when they ran across Brown and Breeland in a gold SUV, and Mateo fired into the car.
"He said he shot the driver and he shot the passenger," the witness said.
'Kept bragging': Mateo repeatedly checked online media reports about Breeland's homicide and "basically kept bragging about the situation," Bruno-Carrasquillo said, adding he was told by Cotton that Cotton's role in the drive-by shooting was to drive the car.
The witness also told jurors that Mateo had given an "on-sight order" for Parkway gang members, meaning "anybody that you see at any time, you gotta go at them," meaning shoot them on sight.
He said the Liberty Court group collected "multiple" guns for "everybody" to use if they needed one.
Bruno-Carrasquillo said he's known Mateo and Cotton for most of his life and hung out with them daily. He calls Cotton "Rel" and calls Mateo "Bebo" and confirmed he was testifying against them in exchange, hopefully, for leniency on his own multiple criminal cases.
Prefers dealing drugs: The witness told jurors he chose not to go "lurking" with his friends.
"I prefer selling drugs to shooting somebody," Bruno-Carrasquillo said. "You can't do both."
Breeland had previously survived a gang-related shooting, police said. He was 18 years old when he was shot in the stomach Sept. 13, 2011, outside the York Fair.
It was Student Day at the fair, and several members of the rival groups had gone there, police said at the time. In the days before that shooting, York City Police had arrested Breeland and charged him with dealing cocaine.
The Parkway and Southside gangs have clashed violently for decades, according to officials, including a 2009 drive-by shooting in which 9-year-old Ciara "CeCe" Savage of Lancaster was fatally shot by a stray bullet while playing on a sidewalk in Southside territory.
Other murder charges: Cotton also is charged in a double homicide that happened in York City. That case has not yet gone to trial.
He's accused in the June 12 shooting deaths of brothers Angel Berrios, 21, and Abdiel "Tito" Vazquez-Soto, 19.
Bruno-Carrasquillo has previously testified that he was driving around with Cotton in the passenger seat when they pulled up to a vehicle carrying the brothers.
He maintains Cotton opened the car door and fired repeatedly at the brothers about 10:15 p.m. at the corner of Jefferson Avenue and Juniper Street.
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.