A Florida woman acted as a lookout for rival gang members. Soon, two teens were shot dead, and 14 people were injured after a mass shooting.
Now, she will spend decades behind bars.
This month in Florida, Lee Circuit Court Judge Nicholas Thompson handed Kierra Russ, 24, two life terms in prison for the shooting death of Ste’fan Strawder, 18, and Sean Archilles, 14. Russ was found guilty and convicted of two counts of second-degree murder and one count of conspiracy to commit murder.
On July 25, 2016, Fort Myers police responded to a teen dance party at Club Blu at 3580 Evans Avenue after reports of a mass shooting. When officers arrived, they found more than 100 bullets had been fired, leaving two teens dead and 14 people injured.
In the aftermath of a press conference, several tips came through Crime Stoppers that led to the arrest of the defendant and her four co-defendants, Tajze Battle, 27, Derrick Church, 25, Dontrill Loggins, 29, and Demetrius O’Neal, 25.
Though Russ, who claimed to be at the club to perform that night, was not part of the shooters, prosecutors told the jury she was the lookout. Investigators found a text message, “I see an opp wide open,” on the defendant’s phone to O’Neal, suggesting an opportunity for the rival gang members to strike.
"She wasn't one of the shooters, but she played a role, and the jury found that," said Lee County State Attorney Sarah Miller, according to FOX 4.
- He killed three people, including an innocent 13-year-old. A judge threw the book at him.
- A Florida man chased after a victim during a road rage incident. When they stopped, he shot at him 16 times.
- Two Americans murdered a cop in Italy in botched drug deal. They will spend their lives in prison for it.
Under Florida law, individuals who help to plan a crime will suffer the same fate and consequences as if they actually committed the offenses with the principal perpetrators.
On the other hand, Russ, a recent Dunbar High School graduate who had just turned 18nyears old at the time, argued she had no connection to the crime. The defendant apologized to the victims’ family and also expressed being a victim caught up in the fatal incident as well.
“No matter what picture the prosecution tries to paint of me, I'm not what they say I am. I'm not a menace to society. I am 24 years old now and all my life I have never been in trouble. I was a young adult still trying to figure my life out. That night was the scariest thing I've experienced," Russ said during her sentencing hearing, according to News-Press.
Russ is the first to be convicted, while her co-defendants are awaiting trial. She filed for an appeal.
Thompson sentenced Russ to additional 15 years for the conspiracy charge and ordered the defendant to serve the sentences concurrently.
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