Jury acquits Fort Worth teen implicated in a gang-related fatal shooting

Posted Tuesday, Jul. 16, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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A jury found a teen not guilty in a fatal shooting last week after a pivotal witness changed his testimony and said the accused man was not present when the crime was committed.

Usanga Lateef Richard, 18, was one of three suspects arrested in the shooting death of Jesse Roland III, a 35-year-old Fort Worth man who was shot several times in the chest Sept. 21, according to court records.

Richard and co-defendants Aaron Johnson and Jonathan Polk were arrested shortly after Roland’s death and were believed to be members of a street gang, according to authorities.

Police have said the three men approached Roland while he was in the 5100 block of Avenue G and opened fire. Roland died less than an hour later at John Peter Smith Hospital.

Polk was sentenced to 15 years in prison after pleading guilty to murder, court documents show. The plea agreement was contingent on Polk testifying against Johnson and Richard, according to court records.

Two weeks before the trial, Polk testified before a judge that he and Richard were both shooting at Roland, according to an emailed statement from the Tarrant County district attorney’s office.

But during the trial last week, Polk changed his story and testified that Richard was not present. He said he lied during his prior testimony, the email stated.

“While on the witness stand, co-defendant Jonathan Polk unexpectedly changed his testimony about Usanga Richard’s involvement in the offense,” prosecutor Robert Huseman said in a separate email. “Obviously, we had hoped for a different outcome, but we respect the jury’s verdict.”

Prosecutors will determine how to proceed on Polk’s plea agreement, said Melody McDonald, a spokeswoman for the Tarrant County district attorney’s office.

Richard’s attorney, Brian Salvant, could not be reached for comment.

After reaching his own deal with prosecutors, Johnson, 19, pleaded guilty to engaging in organized crime and received five years in prison.

Richard was in the Tarrant County Jail on Tuesday awaiting the disposition of a drug possession case that carries a maximum sentence of one year in jail and a $4,000 fine.

Mitch Mitchell, 817-390-7752 Twitter: @mitchmitchel3

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