YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — Jurors today in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court found a man guilty in a June shootings death at a South Side gas station.
Samuel Byrd, 69, was found guilty of aggravated murder for the June 15 shooting death of Keimone Black, 29, at the Shell gas station at South and Samuel avenues.
Visiting Judge Thomas Pokorny immediately sentenced Byrd to life in prison with no possibility of parole, citing video of the shooting from cameras at the gas station and the fact that Byrd served prison time for a Washington, D.C. murder in 1981.
“I can’t recall seeing something as horrific as what I saw on the video,” Judge Pokorny said. “You’re an individual that has to be separated from the rest of society because you’re a dangerous individual.”
Black’s mother thanked the jury for their verdict.
“Life without parole for my son’s death is Justice,” she said. “I still don’t have any rhyme or reason why he did this, but justice has been served for my son Keimone Lamar Black.”
Byrd told Black’s mother he was innocent.
“Even though the court says I’m guilty, I can assure you I’m not,” he said just before he was sentenced. “I have kids. I understand how you feel.”
Byrd also said there were “circumstances in this case that never came out,” but he did not say what those were.
“I feel your pain,” Byrd said to Black’s mother. “I hope you don’t hold it against me or my family.”
Jurors deliberated briefly late Thursday afternoon after closing arguments then returned at 9 a.m. today, delivering their verdicts about 10:20 a.m.
Black was sitting in the driver’s seat of an SUV parked at a gas pump at a gas station at South and Samuel avenues at about 3 a.m. when someone walked up to the passenger’s window and fired several shots.
Black was hit and fell out of the SUV. He later died.
Jury selection took place Monday and testimony began Tuesday before visiting Judge Thomas Pokorny.
After jurors heard closing arguments, Judge Pokorny instructed them in the law and they deliberated briefly before leaving for the evening.
Prosecutors said Byrd was a suspect early on because the lead investigator in the case, Lt. Robert Gentile, who was then a detective sergeant, was able to tell by watching video from the gas station that Byrd was the shooter.
Prosecutors have said Byrd was driven to Dickson Street, which is next to the gas station, got out of the passenger’s side of a car there, walked to the gas station, shot Black then came back to the car and drove away.
Police got security video from a house on Dickson Street that the car was parked in front of and while they were they also found a fresh cigarette butt on the pavement where the car had been parked. When it was tested, the DNA on the cigarette matched Byrd’s.
Defense attorneys said it would have been impossible to identify Byrd from surveillance video because the quality of the video was not that good. They also said the DNA results on the cigarette butt are “limited” and that police never recovered the murder weapon, despite serving several search warrants.
Prosecutors never mentioned a motive during the trial. However, Assistant Prosecutor Michael Rich said afterward that Black might have been shot in a case of mistaken identity.
“He was unfortunately in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Rich told First News. “It’s our belief — there’s still an investigation going on — that this was intended for someone else.”
Gerry Ricciutti contributed to this report.