A North Carolina rapper convicted in a gang-related killing of a 9-year-old boy was dragged out of a federal courtroom by U.S. Marshals on Tuesday as he cursed at a prosecutor and said he didn’t do it.
“That (expletive) don’t know what the (expletive) she is talking about,” shouted Antonio “Lil Tony” Davenport, handcuffed, shackled and wearing yellow jail scrubs, as officers pulled him out of the U.S. Middle District courtroom in Greensboro.
As Davenport started his outburst, his mother yelled for him to stop and his grandmother yelled she knew he didn’t do it.
Emotions among the family members of Z’Yon Person, the 9-year-old Davenport was convicted of killing, were already high during the intense sentencing hearing. Discussions by the judge and others centered on what sentence would be appropriate for Davenport, but also on how to save Durham from a culture of violence.F
“It’s eating Durham alive,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Joanna McFadden.
Murder, gun and racketeering charges
In July a jury found Davenport, 27, guilty of three federal murder, gun and racketeering charges related to the killing of Z’Yon in August 2019.
In March, Davenport’s two co-defendants pleaded guilty to similar charges under deals with prosecutors. Derrick Lamont Dixon, 27, and Dival Magwood, 24, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to engage in acts of racketeering and commission of a violent crime in aid of racketeering.
Prosecutors argued Davenport, Dixon and Magwood were members of the Braggtown-based Northside Eight Trey Gangster Crips.
The men opened fire on an SUV at the intersection of Leon and North Duke streets on Aug. 18, 2019, thinking it was occupied by rival gang members who had jumped Davenport days earlier at The Streets at Southpoint mall.
Instead of gang rivals, the SUV was driven by Danyell Ragland who was taking her three children, along with her niece and nephew to Pelican’s Snoballs on the hot August evening.
Five bullets hit the SUV, and two went in the passenger side back-seat window.
One bullet pierced Ragland’s then 8-year-old son’s arm.
Another went straight through Z’Yon’s forehead. He died the next morning. The bullet that killed Z’Yon likely came from Dixon’s gun, according to court testimony.
Davenport was driving his maroon Honda Accord. Magwood was in the front seat, and Dixon was in the back. Magwood testified during Davenport’s trial that Davenport and Dixon shot up the SUV. Magwood would have, he said, but he couldn’t get a good shot in the front passenger side seat.
Dixon initially told police he was in the car, but that Magwood and Davenport were shooting, not him.
Hugs, football and hanging with friends
On Tuesday, prosecutors, law enforcement, family members and others filed into the courtroom for the 9:30 a.m. hearing.
Initially all three defendants were in the room as Z’Yon’s family described the despair they live with as they try to navigate life without the boy who loved to give hugs, play football and hang out with his cousin and siblings.
“You also took a piece of me,” said Z’Yon’s sister, who was referred to by initials during the hearing since she is a minor.
After Z’Yon’s mother and aunt testified, Osteen asked them what actions he could take to keep little boys from joining gangs and picking up guns.
“I am not going to let Z’Yon Person die in vain,” Osteen said.
Keep Davenport in prison for the rest of his life, Z’Yon’s family mostly said. But Osteen wanted more, he said.
“How do I fashion a sentence that protects these fine people in the community?” he said.
After Z’Yon’s family’s testimony, Dixon and Magwood left the room for Davenport’s sentencing hearing.
Dixon is scheduled to be sentenced later Tuesday. Magwood is scheduled to be sentenced Wednesday morning.
Girl shot in the leg during earlier incident
Davenport’s outburst came as a prosecutor outlined a pattern of recklessness and a disregard for the safety of others.
McFadden said that in January 2019, about eight months before Z’Yon was killed, Davenport saw a rival gang member in line at a Cook Out restaurant drive-through.
Davenport, who was alone, shot at the car, which followed him and created a shootout down Roxboro Road, according to prosecutors.
A 14-year-old girl in a Jeep was shot in the leg.
Afterward, Davenport painted his silver Honda Accord maroon. He had the maroon Honda painted black after Z’Yon was killed, according to statements in court. Davenport’s attorneys raised questions about whether it was Davenport’s vehicle that was involved in the January shooting.
McFadden argued that Davenport gave into the culture of violence, picking up felonies and other charges starting when he was 15 years old.
Davenport went on to a life of carrying and brandishing guns, selling drugs and shooting at rivals. It was a life he lived and rapped about.
And even after he shot a 14-year-old, he continued the pattern that killed Z’Yon and would have killed others if key witnesses didn’t come forward, McFadden said.
”He would have not stopped,” McFadden said.
Two life sentences
After Davenport was taken from the courtroom, the judge set his sentencing for after Dixon’s.
During the trial, both men were described as shooters, or demons as they were known in the gang, according to testimony.
The judge sentenced Dixon to two life sentences to run concurrently. He was also sentenced to 10 years for a federal gun charge, which will also run concurrent with the life sentences.
When Dixon was young his cousin was shot and killed by police, his attorney Bays Shoaf said.
Police and court reports indicate the cousin had a gun, but Dixon and his family don’t believe it, according to statements in court.
“Shortly thereafter he got into gang activity,” Shoaf said.
Later his 17-year-old pregnant girlfriend died in a car wreck and one of his brothers died.
Even though the three defendants didn’t mean to kill Z’Yon, they set out that night to hurt someone, Osteen said.
Everyone is somebody’s child, the judge pointed out.
“Whether it was an 8-year-old, a 15-year-old or a 21-year-old. there was an intention to kill a child,” Osteen said.
Before his sentencing. Dixon apologized to Z’Yon’s family, even though he said he knows they probably won’t forgive him.
If the officer shooting his cousin did help put Dixon on his destructive path, where did it take him, the judge asked Dixon..
“Look at where you are now,” Osteen said.
When U.S. Marshals brought Davenport out for his 3 p.m. hearing his face was covered with a white translucent bag. He had to wear the hood after he spit at a Marshal, a court official said.
After the judge explained to Davenport that another outburst would result in him being removed from the court during the hearing, McFadden continued to argue that Davenport wasn’t going to change.
After shooting a 14-year-old and being involved in the murder of a 9-year-old, when police arrested him, he was carrying a loaded gun.
“He wasn’t going to stop until someone stopped him,” McFadden said.
Osteen sentenced Davenport to two life sentences to concurrently, plus a consecutive 10-year-sentence.
Osteen expressed concern that not only did Davenport participate in the gang lifestyle of selling drugs, flashing drugs, and hunting rivals, he rapped about it.
“The songs I heard are celebrating a lifestyle that killed a child,” he said.