A $35 marijuana deal precipitated a shooting that claimed the life of a 14-year-old Northeast Philadelphia boy, who was neither the seller nor buyer, according to testimony yesterday at a preliminary hearing for the alleged killer.
At the conclusion of the two-hour court session featuring sometimes contradictory witnesses, Municipal Court Judge Patrick Dugan ordered Samir Price, 19, to stand trial for the murder of Northeast High freshman Ian Wilsey at Brous and Devereaux avenues in Lower Mayfair last Nov. 28.
“We’re not here to determine guilt or innocence today, but I can say what’s happening on the streets of Northeast Philadelphia,” Dugan told the courtroom gallery, which included the victim’s mother Kelly, as well as several of the defendant’s friends.
“It used to be a place where kids could be kids. Now we’ve got kids out there buying drugs, selling drugs and carrying guns. And we have a 14-year-old kid who’s dead. And you can’t push the replay button. There’s no do-over.”
Kelly Wilsey sat with relatives in the front row of the gallery and wept, head in hands, for much of the hearing, which included testimony from her son’s friend, Nicholas Matteucci, 17, an admitted low-level “weed” dealer; as well as Michael Washington, 22, who had driven Price and another young man to meet Matteucci at about 9 p.m. on the night of the shooting.
Wilsey had spent much of that afternoon with Matteucci and accompanied him to the corner where Matteucci planned to conduct the sale. Matteucci said he thought of Wilsey “like my little brother.” Wilsey knew of the drug deal, but was not involved in it.
“Ian was not there selling drugs with me. He was not doing nothing. He was just my friend,” Matteucci testified during direct examination by Assistant District Attorney Danielle Burkavage.
Matteucci, who testified under an immunity agreement with prosecutors, said he and Wilsey were hanging out at Matteucci’s house when he received a phone call from an acquaintance nicknamed “Ant” who wanted to buy $35 worth of weed. Matteucci had sold small bags to the same customer six or seven times previously, usually in the neighborhood around Northeast High.
About a week before the shooting, Matteucci had just completed a sale to Ant when an unknown man approached Matteucci and warned him not to sell drugs in the neighborhood because it wasn’t his “turf.” But the threat didn’t amount to anything at the time, Matteucci said. Wilsey wasn’t with Matteucci then.
On Nov. 28, Matteucci and Ant agreed to meet at Brous and Devereaux, about two-and-a-half miles from Northeast High. When Matteucci and Wilsey arrived there, Ant appeared to be alone. He gave $40 in cash to Matteucci, who handed over the drugs and gave Ant a $5 bill as change.
Ant dropped the bill to the ground. As Matteucci bent to pick it up, he heard the click of someone cocking a gun and spotted two more guys approaching them on foot. He recognized one of them as the same man who had warned him about selling drugs a week earlier. The other guy had a hoodie pulled tightly around his face and was pointing a gun.
“I only saw one gun and I turned around and told Ian to run. I started running and heard gunshots. I didn’t run past (Wilsey). I thought he was with me,” Matteucci said.
The gunman fired three or four shots, according to Matteucci. One of the bullets struck Wilsey in the right side of his back and traveled through his torso with an upward trajectory, exiting through the left side of his chest.
“I heard him go down and heard him yell. I wanted to turn back but I knew there was nothing I could do so I ran for help,” Matteucci said.
The slug injured Wilsey’s spine, spinal cord, left lung and heart, according to Assistant District Attorney Jude Conroy. Police rushed Wilsey to Aria-Jefferson Health’s Torresdale campus, where he was pronounced dead at 9:37 p.m.
Matteucci ran home and locked himself in his room. When police showed up at his door later that night, he told them that he and Wilsey had been walking to a local store for a snack when they ran into Ant by coincidence. Then two men approached them and began shooting for an unknown reason.
On the witness stand, Matteucci admitted that he withheld information about the drug deal because he was afraid and didn’t want his mom to know he was selling dope. He finally came clean with his family and police four days later. When police interviewed him again, they showed him several suspects’ photos. Although Matteucci never got a good look at the gunman, he recognized one of the photos as the guy who had warned him a week earlier about selling drugs near Northeast High. It was Michael Washington.
Washington, in his testimony on Tuesday, identified Price as the shooter but contradicted some of what Matteucci told the court. Like Wilsey’s friend, Washington also testified with immunity.
Under Conroy’s direct examination, Washington said that he drove to Ant’s house on the night of the shooting and planned to take his friend somewhere to buy marijuana. When he arrived at Ant’s house, Price was also there.
The three young men pooled their cash and went to meet Matteucci at the appointed street corner. Washington first let Ant out of the car, then drove around the block to park. Washington testified that nobody in the car mentioned robbing or shooting anyone that night.
But as the drug transaction was concluding, Washington and Price exited the car and approached the corner on foot. Washington saw Matteucci and Wilsey start to run. Then he saw Price pull a gun and heard Ant blurt out, “Hit them niggas.”
Price fired once from the middle of the street at a range of about 15 feet. He fired several more times as he jogged toward the fleeing targets.
Afterward in the car, “I asked him what was that for? Why did he do what he did? He had a blank look on his face, an ‘I don’t know’ look,” Washington said.
Ant was similarly angered by Price’s actions, said Washington, who never asked Ant why he had apparently urged Price to attack Matteucci and Wilsey.
The prosecutors did not call Ant to testify, but Conroy identified him for the record as Anthony Alleyne, 20. A statement given by Alleyne to police hours after the shooting also implicated Price.
Conroy read a portion of Alleyne’s statement in court despite objections by defense attorneys Roger Schrading and Andrea Konow on grounds of hearsay. Dugan overruled the objections.
Alleyne allegedly told detectives that in the car on the way to the drug buy, “Samir told me not to pay for (the drugs), just to take it. I said, ‘Chill out. That’s my young boy.’ ”
Conroy said that details of the case remain actively under investigation. Dugan set Price’s Common Pleas Court arraignment for Feb. 28. ••