Prosecutors have reinstated a second-degree murder charge against a man accused of fatally shooting a 13-year-old Southeast Washington boy, saying that a witness has come forward to dispute the man's claim that he was not even holding the weapon when it accidentally fired.
Pernell P. Wood initially was charged in a warrant with murder in the Sept. 27 shooting of Michael Swann. But because the shooting appeared to be an accident, prosecutors reduced the charge to involuntary manslaughter. At a hearing yesterday in D.C. Superior Court, prosecutors persuaded a judge to let them pursue a second-degree murder case.
Michael was in a bedroom of a friend's apartment in the 2600 block of Douglas Road SE when a bullet went through a wall and hit him in the side. At first, police believed that Wood, 20, was in an adjacent bedroom when he mishandled a gun and the shot went off.
Wood, 20, of the 2800 block of Jasper Road SE, who turned himself in to authorities a day after the shooting, told detectives that the gun was on a bed and went off accidentally after he sat on the mattress, according to charging documents.
Yesterday prosecutors said that a witness who saw Wood just before the shooting came forward Oct. 1 and disputed his account. The witness, who had a BB gun in the apartment on the day of the shooting, told police that Swann pulled a pistol from under the mattress and warned, "Don't be messing with no BB gun around me," prosecutors said.
The witness stepped out of the doorway "out of fear," prosecutors said in charging papers. Then the witness heard the gunshot.
Prosecutors said other witnesses reported that immediately after the shooting, Wood told them: "My fault. I didn't mean to do it. I'm sorry," and, "I should never have had a gun out."
The weapon has not been found. Prosecutors quoted Wood as saying that it fell out of his pocket after he left the apartment.
Detective Michael A. Fulton, of the violent crimes branch, testified yesterday that firearms examiners determined that the shot could not have been fired from the angle that Wood described.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Catherine J. Motz argued that Wood knew at least four people, including his 6-month-old daughter, were in the apartment when he fired the gun, another factor in going after the more serious charge.
Defense attorney Clarence Powell said the prosecution did not have enough evidence to charge Wood with second-degree murder.
Judge John H. Bayly Jr. disagreed and ordered that Wood remain jailed without bond. "He was shooting to show . . . that he means business and, 'Don't go bringing some BB gun around me,' " Bayly said.