Nearly four years after 18-year-old Brandon Hammett was fatally shot near an Ocala elementary school, one of the four people charged in the killing has gone to trial.
When the shooting occurred in October 2018, Luis Angel Ortega, believed to be the alleged triggerman, was 16.
Now 19, Ortega is charged with first-degree murder. If convicted, he could be sentenced up to life behind bars. He has been locked up since his January 2019 arrest.
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Ortega is represented by Charles W. Fletcher of Jacksonville. Assistant State Attorneys Toby Hunt and Wynn Vickers are prosecuting the case for the state. Circuit Judge Peter Brigham is presiding over the trial, which began Tuesday.
Here's what happened on the day in question
On the day in question, sheriff's deputies said, Hammett met four individuals near Saddlewood Elementary School on Southwest 43rd Court after reportedly getting a message about selling marijuana.
Arriving at the destination, Hammett was asked about the weed. When he showed the illegal substance, deputies said, Hammett was shot.
Hammett, who was behind the wheel of a car at the time, drove not far away from the location and stopped. He was taken to a nearby hospital, where he later died.
The shooting scared more than 1,000 people who had gathered at the school for a Halloween event.
Detectives said Ortega wrote an apology letter to Hammett's family.
Ortega and three others - Dalton Wayne Purvis, 23, Denver James Sutter, 22, and 20-year-old Carlos M. Flores-Renteria, all of Ocala - were taken into custody.
Purvis, Sutter and Flores-Renteria were charged with third-degree murder.
Last year, Purvis was sentenced to eight years in prison following a plea agreement between his lawyer and prosecutors. Part of his deal is that he must testify truthfully against the others.
Sutter is dead. Flores-Renteria's case is ongoing, according to court records.
Hammett's girlfriend testifies
The prosecution called several people to the witness stand on Tuesday. One was Hammett's girlfriend, who was in the vehicle at the time he was shot.
The woman said she recognized two of the four people that day. She said they asked for marijuana and Hammett showed them some weed. She said the shooter asked for more. When Hammett told them he didn't have any more, she said, the gunman fired several shots into the car.
"He was upset that Brandon didn't have more," the woman testified.
She said Hammett reversed and the gunman kept firing shots. She said before stopping the car, Hammett told her he was shot.
The 911 tape was played for jurors. The jury also saw footage of the scene from a deputy's body camera.
Defense attorney Fletcher asked the woman if she knew that her boyfriend was dealing drugs. She said no. He asked if she smelled any marijuana in the car, and she again said no. She told the defense lawyer that she never picked the shooter from a lineup.
Purvis took the stand and told the court that he's a changed person and had no incentive to lie.
End of Day One
Jurors saw pictures, listened to audio and watched footage of an interview between a detective and Ortega. Sitting beside his lawyer on Tuesday, Ortega turned his head away when the video showed him and a woman crying as they hugged each other while they were in an interview room at the Sheriff's Office.
Ortega's family members were present in the courtroom and they sat in the back.
The trial resumes Wednesday. It's unknown if Ortega will testify, or how many witnesses the defense plans to call.
Contact Austin L. Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org or @almillerosb.
This article originally appeared on Ocala Star-Banner: Man accused of 2018 shooting death in Ocala, Florida stands trial