By Tony Hanson
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Four men are in police custody, charged with trying to murder a witness in a shooting case in 2010.
37-year-old Aki Jones, 35-year-old Charles Alexander, 42-year-old Troy Cooper and 21-year-old Shaheed Williams were all charged Wednesday with Attempted Murder, Witness Intimidation, Aggravated Assault, and Conspiracy.
In November, 2010, gunfire erupted on Turner Street in North Philadelphia following an altercation among several women. No one was injured in the shooting, but a witness called 9-1-1 to report what he saw and that led to the arrest of Aki Jones.
Jones was awaiting trial in the case and that’s when, authorities say, he and his co-conspirators tried to bribe the witness — and when that witness turned down the money — they tried to kill him.
District Attorney Seth Williams says Shaheed Williams approached witness Michael Vessels as he left his house on the morning of Jones’ trial.
“He attempted to shoot him,” Williams says. “He blocked it with his hand. He then ran, Mr. Vessels then ran. He was fired at two more times. He fell down. Then the defendant stood over him and said ‘you are not going to talk anymore.’ He tried to shoot him in the head. Luckily for all of us, and luckily for Mr. Vessels, it went into his neck and did not strike his spinal cord.”
“We need to bring an end to the anti-snitching culture that is so pervasive in some of our communities,” ATF Special Agent in Charge Sam Rabadi added in a statement.
Authorities say Mr. Vessels, now a protected witness, heroically came forward and remains committed to seeing this through and seeing justice.