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Judge to decide whether statements in shooting case will be heard at trial

February 14, 2011|By DON AINES | dona@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN — The case of a 17-year-old Hagerstown boy charged in the accidental shooting of his 2-year-old brother will remain in adult court, but whether his statement to police after the shooting will be admitted at trial will have to be answered by Washington County Circuit Judge Donald E. Beachley.

Marcus Longus is charged with obstructing police, making false statements, leaving a firearm accessible to a minor and firearms violations, according to court records.

Hagerstown Police said Mario Longus shot himself in the chest with a stolen handgun he apparently found under a bed. The shooting in an apartment on Little Elliott Drive was reported at 1:16 a.m. on Sept. 27, 2010, charging documents said.

Mario Longus survived his injuries, Assistant State’s Attorney Brett Wilson said.

Assistant Public Defender Loren Villa told Beachley that Marcus Longus waived his right to a hearing to have his case transferred to juvenile court. However, Villa went forward with a motion to suppress statements, arguing that Longus was in custody and was not notified of his Miranda rights at the time detectives interviewed him.

The video of the interview, which began at 9:43 a.m. Sept. 27, was shown in court, with Detectives Jason Ackerman and Paul Hoover questioning Longus about the events of that morning.

Longus told investigators he was asleep in the living room when he learned his younger brother had been hurt. Early in the video, he tells detectives he is on home detention and asks them to inform his juvenile probation officer so he will not be in violation.

“You help us out, we’ll help you” one of the detectives tells Longus.

Villa said that was an inducement or promise to do something for Longus if he cooperated.

The detective was responding to Longus’ request to notify his probation officer, Wilson said.

As the interview progresses, the detectives tell Longus they have different versions of what happened and who was in the bedroom when his brother was shot. Later, one detective leaves and returns with a note he hands to the other investigator.

Hoover, now retired, testified the note was from another investigator who wrote that another person in the apartment, Michael King, told police the handgun belonged to Longus, and that Longus’ girlfriend, Fantaisa Rivera, took it from the apartment.

Once the note was brought in, the interview of a witness became an interrogation of a suspect, and Longus should have been advised of his Miranda rights, Villa argued.

King had given police differing statements about the shooting, and police were still trying to determine the facts from Longus, Wilson said.

“Arguably, once the note is handed over, he is no longer a witness,” Beachley said.

After the shooting, Longus and some other people in the apartment were searched, driven to police headquarters by an officer, under observation even when going to the bathroom and never told they could leave, Villa argued. Her client was in custody, she said.

Police told him he could not leave, Longus testified.

Ackerman testified the witnesses were kept under observation “to preserve the integrity of the investigation.”

Ackerman testified at one point that Longus was interviewed, in part, to determine the nature of his brother’s injuries to help those treating the child.

“This is eight hours after the fact, and your testimony is that you wanted to find out from Marcus whether the child had been shot?” Villa asked.

Longus repeatedly denied in the video that he was in the bedroom when the shooting occurred or that he knew about the gun. Some of Longus’ responses in the video were difficult to hear in the courtroom, but Wilson said afterward that he admitted in it to handling the weapon.

Longus is scheduled for trial in April. Beachley did not say when he would rule on the suppression motion.

Rivera also was charged as an adult, but her case recently was transferred to juvenile court.

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