RALEIGH — Dewayne Stewart's father knew his son was in a gang.
He just didn't think it was a big deal.
"I didn't know he was involved as he was," said Randolph Sykes after his son was led away from a Wake County courtroom by sheriff's deputies. "I hold myself responsible."
Stewart, 19, was held criminally responsible Thursday when he was sent away to prison for at least 3 1/2 years for his part in the June 3, 2006, fatal drive-by shooting of Jamel Jefferys by Raleigh-based Bloods street gang members and associates in a three-car caravan. Mionte Hines and Sean McCullers, both 17, were also sentenced Thursday to at least two years in prison, and several more of the 15 suspects in the gang-related killing are expected to find out today how much, if any, prison time they'll get for their part in Jefferys' death. So far, the six men sentence by Wake Senior Resident Judge Donald Stephens have received prison sentences ranging from two-year stints to a lifetime behind bars.
Jefferys died from several gunshot wounds outside his Beauty Avenue home when shots were fired from a truck leading two cars full of members and associates of the Bloods street gang. Jefferys had gotten into a scuffle with some of the gang members, and they mistakenly thought he was a member of the Crips, a rival street gang.
Leaders of a newly formed faction of the Bloods ordered that the group confront Jefferys. After the killing, Raleigh police arrested 15 people, including two juveniles, and charged them with murder in connection with Jefferys' death. But Wake County prosecutors made deals with all but one of the suspects to testify against their fellow gang members, and many have been in court this week for sentencing.
Stewart had been in a faction of the Bloods for at least a year before the killing, and sported a scar known as "paw prints" made of three circles often burnt into the skin by a heated-up end of a shotgun shell casing, if done on the streets, or a toothpaste cap if the initiation into the gang occurs behind bars. But he had also just completed 10th grade, and played the bass drum in the well-known Helping Hands Mission Marching Band, his attorney Jeff Cutler said.
On June 3, Stewart tried to tell gang members not to go after Jefferys, who was his friend, his lawyer said.
His objections were overridden by gang leaders and he joined the others in mugging for a photograph before the shooting.
Stephens chastised all three teenagers before him for going along with the group decision.
"It took on a life of its own, then it took a life," he said.
When he sentenced McCullers, Stephens held up two photographs McCullers had taken with Kerwin Pittman, a relative of his and a leader of the gang.
The photographs shows the two in red bandannas, pointing a barrel of gun at the photographers.
"This is not cool, this is dumb," Stephens said.
McCullers agreed as he asked the judge for leniency.
"I'm not cool, because I'm sitting here today facing you," he said.
Staff writer Sarah Ovaska can be reached at 829-4622 or email@example.com.