MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) – Law enforcement authorities on Friday arrested the man accused of gunning down an innocent victim in a case of mistaken identity.

Deangelo Demetrius Merrill, 29, faces charges of murder, first-degree burglary and illegal passion of a pistol. Police allege that he went to Pathways Apartment Homes on Florida Street on June 29 to avenge his girlfriend’s shooting on Williams Street but went to the wrong door.

James Leevaughn Jones, a 74-year-old military veteran who was on kidney dialysis, died in the gunfire.

“In reference to the victim, Mr. Jones, he truly in every sense of the word is a victim in this case. It was unfortunate for him and his family,” Mobile Police Chief Paul Prine said. “In terms of Mr. Merrill, this was (a) retaliatory shooting, where he simply went to the wrong location and kicked in the wrong house. And it will not be tolerated.”

Finding Jones had been a top priority for Mobile police. He was on the department’s “most wanted” list.

Prine would not divulge many details about the defendant’s apprehension in Prichard. But he said it involved cyber technology and good police work by the U.S. Marshals Service Task Force, his department’s Tactical Intelligence Unit, a K-9 unit and the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency aviation unit.

“It was a lot of efforts on multiple jurisdictions and the help that they gave us,” he said.

Jones’ death was the end of a cascade of events that started with a fight in the 500 block of Williams Street at the home of sister rap duo known as the Fam0us Twinss. According to accounts by police at the time, the women’s father, James Walters, got into an altercation with another man. Police say that man shot Walters in self-defense. A 23-year-old woman, who was Merrill’s girlfriend, died in what police called an accidental gunshot.

Police say Merrill, who was not present, heard about his girlfriend’s injury and then set off for revenge. That led to the deadly encounter with Jones.

The month before the shooting, according to court records, Merrill appeared before Mobile County Circuit Judge Ben Brooks for a probation revocation hearing related to an arrest by Prichard police on drug charges. But when the arresting officer did not appear in court on May 12, Brooks dismissed the case and put Merrill back on probation.

Five days after that hearing, Mobile police found drugs on him after he ran from a traffic stop at the intersection of Gloria York Avenue and St. Stephens Road. Officers chased him through a wooded area and arrested him next to a home on Agate Street. Officers found almost 19 grams of crack cocaine and $4,367, according to a probation report.

While police were searching for a microphone attachment that one of the officers had lost, they found a bag containing 55.6 grams of powder cocaine and Merrill’s cell phone, the probate document states. Officers also found a gun, according to court papers.

Court records show he admitted he had been selling drugs for the last two years. “I’m in the streets thuggin,” he told investigators, according to a probation report.

Shortly after his arrest Friday, Merrill denied that he shot Jones and urged friends and relatives to deposit money in his jail account. From the back of a squad car, he flashed an exaggerated smile at reporters.  

“I’m innocent, man,” he said. “I don’t know what they talking about. … Just tell everybody to hook me up, man. Get in touch with me. All my friends.”

Prine sought to reassure the public near the end of what has been a particularly violent year in the Port City.

“I would tell the citizens of Mobile, we have had quite a few incidences here in the last couple of weeks,” he said. “But I would also assure them that these, for the most part, are all known offenders to one another. We do understand that the citizens of Mobile could be a victim in those scenarios. However, we are working diligently to get ahead of that. And hopefully in the next few weeks, you’ll start seeing some drastic change with regards to how that looks.”


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