YOUNGSTOWN - Murder charges against one man investigators believe was involved in the deadly shooting last week near Youngstown State University were dropped on the same day a fifth man was charged in connection with the shooting.
Braylon Rogers, 19, 174 E. Lucius Ave., pleaded guilty to one count of having weapons while under disability Monday after he gave investigators information that has led to search warrants and three other arrests in the case, Mahoning County Prosecutor Paul J. Gains said.
Rogers originally was charged with one count of aggravated murder, one count of discharging a weapon into a habitation and 11 counts of felonious assault. He was arrested about 14 hours after the shooting by the FBI's Violent Crime Task Force.
Youngstown Police Capt. Rod Foley, chief of detectives, said he will ask the city to dismiss the murder charges against Rogers.
Rogers has no adult criminal history but was convicted as a juvenile on attempted burglary and disorderly conduct charges. He was cited in a hit-skip in January 2009.
Earlier in the day, the fifth man charged in connection with the shooting appeared in Youngstown Municipal Court for his arraignment.
Brandon Carter, 22, of 22 E. Ravenwood Ave., entered no plea to his charge of obstructing justice Monday in front of Youngstown Municipal Court Magistrate Anthony Sertick.
He is being held at the Mahoning County Jail in lieu of $75,000 bond.
Investigators have been tight-lipped about the investigation since more people have been arrested in connection with the Feb. 6 shooting at an off-campus party on Indiana Avenue that left one dead and 11 others injured. Gains said investigators will continue to keep their investigation out of the media because of the effects leaked information about Rogers' cooperation with authorities.
"There's nothing that we're releasing at this time," police Chief Jimmy Hughes said of Carter's involvement in the shooting. "We're rounding people up and investigating. We're trying to hold on to it until they're into court.
"The charges are subject change,'' he said.
The warrant for Carter's arrest alleged that Carter purposefully obstructed the aggravated murder investigation by giving investigators false information on or about last Thursday.
Carter was then arrested by Youngstown police and the Violent Crimes Task Force Friday at his home. Reports said his family members video taped his arrest.
Carter is the fifth person to be charged in the case, in which police believe gunfire erupted from either a fight at a downtown bar or a fight over a woman at the Metroplex in Liberty.
Police originally said they believed two men were responsible for the shooting. They said the men came into the party, were kicked out and came back to home at 55 Indiana Ave. and shot multiple times into the open doorway.
Six victims, including Jamail Johnson, 25, who was killed, were YSU students. Johnson, who was set to graduate from YSU in the spring with a business degree, was ushering people away from the shooters when he was shot in the head, police said.
With Rogers pleading, only one man remains charged with the murder. Columbus E. Jones, 22, 529 Cambridge Ave., is being held without bond in the jail, facing one count of aggravated murder, one count of discharging a weapon into a habitation and 11 counts of felonious assault.
Prosecutors have said he could face the death penalty.
Two others have been charged in the case.
Jamelle Jackson, 18, of 108 W. Boston Ave., was charged Thursday with carrying a concealed weapon as the result of three search warrants executed in the city, including Jackson's home. Those search warrants are sealed and not public record.
Demetrius Wright, 20, of 37 W. Avondale Ave., is facing one count of tampering with evidence. His arrest warrant alleges he committed the crime the day of the shooting.
Wright is being held on $100,000 bond and Jackson is being held on $150,000 bond.
Rogers had been charged with murder but the Mahoning County chief criminal attorney Rebecca Doherty negotiated the plea agreement with Rogers attorney, Edward Hartwig.
Gains said that Rogers worked with detectives from the Youngstown police department and the city and county prosecutor's offices. The plea deal was taken with approval from the Capt. Rod Foley, YPD's chief of detectives, and Detective Richard Spotleson, the lead investigator in the case.
Gains said his office has worked closely with investigators since Tuesday.
"After speaking with detectives, we al believe this is the appropriate charge for Mr. Rogers," Gains said.
"Based on the information based on what Mr. Rogers told us, we secured several search warrants which resulted in several items relevant to this investigation," Gains said. "The detectives located other witnesses they were previously unaware of. The investigation corroborated with the account provided by Mr. Rogers and police are continuing to develop additional information."
Because information about Rogers' cooperation with investigators was leaked to the local media, Rogers' life was in danger and he was being held in solitary confinement for nearly a week for his own protection, Gains said.
He requested that the YPD Internal Affairs Division investigate who leaked information to the local media about Rogers' involvement in the investigation.
"We do not believe it was a sworn member of the Youngstown Police Department who leaked the information," Gains said. "However, at this time, I am requesting that the Youngstown police conduct an internal investigation to identify the source of the leak of this information. Such leaks are unacceptable and jeopardized the safety of cooperating witnesses and deters potential witnesses from coming forward."