What began as a “pointless argument” stemming from a look that “lasted a second too long” between a Lancaster man and three other males ended with the man’s death when he was fatally shot in the back, a prosecutor told a Lancaster County jury on Monday.
Luis Perez, the victim, had asked the males what they were looking at when they walked by him as he stood outside his house in the 600 block of South Lime Street on Oct. 9, 2019, Assistant District Attorney Cody Lee Wade told the jury in his opening statement in the trial of the teenager charged with killing Perez.
Perez, 25, was “looking for a fight and they seem interested in that as well,” Wade said, adding, “It doesn’t really matter how the fight started. It matters how the fight ended.”
It ended, he said, when Rahmir Hopkins, three weeks shy of his 15th birthday, shot Perez as Perez was trying to get up off the sidewalk.
“A gun was brought into a fist fight,” Wade said.
Wade told the jury that they will be able to convict Hopkins of first-degree murder at the end of the trial, which carries a sentence of life without possibility of parole.
Under Pennsylvania law, homicide is automatically treated as an adult crime. Hopkins is one of the youngest people ever to be charged with homicide in Lancaster County.
Hopkins’ attorney, Perry Paul De Marco Sr., told the jury that the prosecution has insufficient evidence to prove that Hopkins shot Perez.
No gun was recovered. And while video from surveillance cameras captured part of the fight and Perez being shot, the footage did not capture the shooter.
Hopkins and his friends weren’t looking for a fight, De Marco told the jury. He said Perez was high on THC — the active ingredient in marijuana — and “insisted he had to go out and confront this little boy, this 14 year old.”
Perez’s younger brother, Ramon Perez, 22, testified that he heard the group and his brother exchange words, but did not hear exactly what was said.
While he saw his brother and Hopkins’ group fighting, he did not see who shot his brother, he said. He initially thought the loud pop he heard was from kids playing. His brother then walked toward him.
“He walked toward me and fell right at my feet … while he was falling, I saw the bullet coming out of his body,” Ramon Perez testified.
The trial is expected to last about a week.
On Thursday, Elijahuwon Ashmeir Brown, 14, of Lancaster, is scheduled to appear at a preliminary hearing before District Judge Adam Witkonis in the Aug. 27 shooting death of 23-year old Rolando Rivera in the 500 block of Third Street, next to Rodney Park. Brown will turn 15 on Dec. 28.
According to police, video from nearby residences shows Brown shooting Rivera. An autopsy found Rivera died as the result of multiple gunshot wounds to the head and torso.