Posted at: 02/01/2013 7:37 PM
Updated at: 02/01/2013 10:35 PM
By: Scott Theisen
Hennepin County prosecutors say a Minneapolis teenager has admitted to the shooting death of a 5-year-old boy.
Nizzel George was struck by one of several bullets fired into his grandmother's home on Bryant Avenue last June.
On Friday, Stephon Shannon pled guilty to one count of "second degree intentional murder for the benefit of a gang." He was 17 years old at the time of the shooting.
Prosecutors say the gunfire was part of gang retaliation.
On Tuesday, Shannon will be sentenced to 28 years in prison.
The fate of another teen, who was also indicted in the case, remains up in the air. Investigators are still trying to bring charges against him as an adult.
Cornelius George, Nizzell's father, was in court when the announcement was made Friday. "To be honest, I'm just still kind of shocked and still mad," he said. "It was real intense. I don't hate nobody but I just don't see how I could forgive him."
David Brown, the Hennepin County Chief Deputy Attorney, said, "It's been a very emotional and every difficult case."
Brown described what Shannon told prosecutors. "He admitted to shooting at the home. He admitted trying to hit people in the home, although he could not actually see people. And he did not intend to hit Nizzell George. This was part of a retaliation for an earlier gang shooting."
Brown said Shannon decided to plead guilty because, if he'd been convicted at trial on the charges he originally faced--first degree murder--his prison term might have been even longer. He'll be sentenced next Tuesday.
Brown wouldn't say who Shannon was actually targeting. And he said investigators can't be certain whether it was Shannon, or his juvenile accomplice, who fired the fatal shot. "We don't know and we will never know."
Because the murder charges are gang-related, prosecutors were able to tack on two additional years to Shannon's eventual sentence.
"I felt some relief," said Cornelius George. But even so, "jail time is never enough for a child's life."
Mark Saxenmeyer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org