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York DA seeks death penalty for accused Regal Cinemas murderer

Liz Evans Scolforo
York Dispatch

York County prosecutors will seek the death penalty for the man accused of murdering Andre White Jr. inside a theater at Regal Cinemas in West Manchester Township, if he is convicted of first-degree murder.

Anu-Malik Johnson, 21, of no fixed address, remains in York County Prison without bail, charged with first- and third-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, aggravated assault, being a felon in illegal possession of a firearm and five counts of reckless endangerment.

His general homicide charge was modified to murder charges on Friday, when he was formally arraigned in York County Court, according to court records.

Also on Friday, the York County District Attorney's Office filed its notice to seek the death penalty against Johnson, court records state.

Prosecutors' filing states Johnson put at least one person besides the victim in grave risk of death when he allegedly gunned down White during the theater shooting, defense attorney Jon White confirmed.

The attorney said that while he and Johnson expected it, they are disappointed.

"We don't believe seeking the death penalty serves the interests of justice," Jon White said, adding he intends to challenge prosecutors' death-penalty notice.

Anu-Malik Johnson

Pennsylvania has a specific list of aggravating circumstances that prosecutors can cite to seek the death penalty. Jon White said he doesn't believe the sole aggravating factor cited by the DA's Office is sufficient to move forward with a capital case.

The background: Johnson went to the Regal Cinemas in West Manchester Township on Dec. 2 with acquaintance Jalen Bellaflores, who testified against Johnson at the man's preliminary hearing last month.

Bellaflores 19, of York, is charged with hindering Johnson's apprehension, obstruction of justice, tampering with evidence and conspiracy to obstruct justice, but his original homicide charge was withdrawn.

Bellaflores has admitted that after the shooting, he drove Johnson from the scene.

Homicide victim Andre White Jr.

Andre White Jr., 22, of Carlisle, suffered five gunshot wounds while inside Theater 6 in Regal Cinemas' West Manchester Town Center location about 10:15 p.m. Dec. 2, West Manchester Township Detective Sgt. Sean Conway has said.

Two stray bullets from Johnson's gun struck surviving victim Luisa Torres, 22 at the time, police have said. One bullet grazed her right cheek, and the other struck her in the shoulder, according to Conway.

She was merely a bystander, police have said; there were eight people in the theater when gunfire erupted.

Investigators recovered a total of nine spent shell casings at the scene — all .40 caliber, according to Conway.

According to Bellaflores' testimony, Johnson and Andre White saw each other and said "What's up" in a "confrontational" manner, which Bellaflores said caused him to walk out of the theater.

He testified he heard gunshots after leaving Theater 6, after which Johnson ran up to him and urged him to go. They left together, according to Bellaflores.

'Animosity': West Manchester Township Police Chief John Snyder has said Johnson and Andre White knew each other prior to that night and that there was clearly animosity between them.

Snyder has described Johnson as "an extremely dangerous human being."

Asked whether Johnson is a member of a gang, York County District Attorney Dave Sunday has said, "We're putting those threads together."

The DA's Office declined further comment on Monday.

Members of the U.S. Marshals Service's fugitive task force captured Johnson in New Jersey on Dec. 18. Police said he has no fixed address.

Victim's friend charged: Also charged in the case is the homicide victim's girlfriend, 18-year-old Kieara Aleysiah Martinez of York, who remains free on $50,000 bail.

Police said she took Andre White's phone from the crime scene and lied about it to investigators for days.

She told police she saw a call come in to his phone through SnapChat immediately after he was gunned down and also admitted to altering information on her friend's phone, police allege.

Kieara Aleysiah Martinez

She's charged with felony counts of hindering the apprehension of a suspect, obstructing the administration of law and tampering with evidence.

Targeted in 2017: Johnson has a connection to the June 27, 2017, murder of Elizabeth Vega-Tirado, 48, an innocent bystander who was walking home from a York City corner store when she was fatally shot by a stray bullet that investigators say was meant for Johnson.

Leandro Pilier was 16 years old when he tried to shoot Johnson, who was in a moving car near the corner of West Princess Street and South Belvidere Avenue just before 3:45 p.m.

Pilier was charged as an adult and found guilty of third-degree murder in September 2018. He is currently serving a 15- to 30-year prison sentence.

A photo of a second suspect in the Regal movie theater shooting, Anu-Malik Lee Johnson, was on display at a press conference at the West Manchester Township Police Police Department Friday, Dec. 6, 2019. submitted photo

Vega-Tirado was just a few feet from her door when she was shot while carrying home groceries. She was the mother of four sons.

In October 2018, Johnson pleaded guilty to felony drug dealing and was sentenced to nine to 23 months in York County Prison, court records state.

— Reach senior crime reporter Liz Evans Scolforo at levans@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.