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Niles juvenile pleads ‘true’ to role in drive-by shooting

YOUNGSTOWN — The second teen boy charged in the early-March 31 drive-by shooting on East Avondale Avenue that hit a girl, 13, in the leg while she was in bed pleaded “true” Thursday to a variety of charges in Mahoning County Juvenile Court.

“True” is the juvenile equivalent of “guilty” in adult court.

Xavier Hile, 16, of Niles, entered “true” pleas to felonious assault and improperly discharging firearms into a habitation before Mahoning County Juvenile Court Judge Theresa Dellick. Both charges carry five-year specifications for a drive-by shooting and three-year gun specifications.

By pleading true to the offenses, Hile could be sent to an Ohio Department of Youth Services facility until he is 21 years old.

But first, he will be transferred to the Trumbull County Juvenile Justice Center, and a Trumbull County Juvenile Court judge will carry out his sentencing, said Wes Skeels, Mahoning County Juvenile Court administrator.

Hile’s co-defendant, Kasean R. Wilkerson, 16, also of Niles, pleaded “true” to the same charges earlier this month, and a Trumbull County Juvenile Court judge has responsibility for his sentencing.

Because both males are juveniles, their cases had to be transferred to the juvenile courts in their home county for sentencing, Skeels said.

Police have said Wilkerson admitted to being the one who fired the gun in the 2 a.m. shooting. Hile was the driver of the car. The home was hit at least 10 times by the gunfire, Youngstown police said.

Youngstown police said an officer who was in the area learned the vehicle involved in the shooting was a white sport utility vehicle with pinstriping, then spotted a white Chevrolet Trailblazer at a stop sign at Dickson Street and South Avenue.

The vehicle attempted to get onto Interstate 680 but stopped after the officer got behind the vehicle with lights and siren.

Jana M. Cox, 25, of York Avenue in Warren, was in the front passenger seat, and Wilkerson was in the back seat, police said. All three were escorted out of the vehicle. An officer closed a passenger door and heard the sound of a bullet shell casing hitting the ground and found it next to the door.

Officers also found a loaded handgun under the driver’s seat and two more shell casings outside of the car.

Youngstown police Chief Carl Davis spoke about the shooting at a news conference later March 31, saying the victim was “at home in her bed when she was struck by a bullet from the gunfire that struck the home.”

Students and staff at Taft Elementary School, which also is on East Avondale Avenue and close to where the shooting occurred, posted a video the following month called “We Are Peace — We Are Taft” that asked the community to “please stop the violence.”

Mahoning County Common Pleas Judge John Durkin found Cox guilty of obstructing justice and improperly handling a firearm in a motor vehicle during a trial without a jury.

She will be sentenced 10:30 a.m. Sept. 16.

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