Man charged in shooting of taxi cab driver
From his hospital bed in an intensive care unit, wounded Billtown Cab driver Eugene Phillips “immediately reacted” when he was shown a picture Wednesday of the man suspected of shooting him last week in his cab on Elmira Street, city police said.
The picture Phillips was shown was that of 24-year-old Dante Jamile Washington, who was charged Thursday afternoon with attempted homicide and related offenses in connection with the shooting that occurred about 6:20 a.m. on May 15.
Investigators said Phillips was shot as he was being robbed.
Police did not go into detail as to how Phillips “reacted” when he was shown the picture, but he was able to “identify Washington as the person who allegedly shot him,” Agent Raymond O. Kontz III said.
Phillips had been shown a photo array of possible suspects, Kontz said.
Gravely wounded in the shooting, which occurred in an alley off of the 1000 block of Elmira Street, Phillips was shot at close range in the torso allegedly by Phillips, whom he had picked up minutes earlier at a home in the 600 block of Campbell Street, Kontz said.
Although Phillips still was listed in critical condition on Wednesday, doctors allowed investigators for the first time to briefly question him, according to Kontz.
“He was able to communicate with us,” Kontz said in an affidavit.
“Phillips told us that Washington came out of a residence that we determined was 679 Campbell St.,” Kontz said.
Phillips took his fare to the area of Elmira Street, where Washington told him to “drop him off at an alley out back,” according to Kontz.
“Phillips stated that Washington produced a handgun that had been concealed from his view. Washington demanded his money and Phillips complied,” Kontz said.
“Once Phillips turned over a bag that contained the money, Washington (allegedly) shot him for no apparent reason,” Kontz said.
“The gunshot wound damaged both of Phillips’ lungs, liver and stomach. He had to have his spleen removed and has thus far undergone four surgeries,” Kontz said.
Washington had been picked up at the home of Shannon Aikey, who “confirmed that the call that was made to Billtown Cab did come from a cellphone with her number,” Kontz said.
Taken to police headquarters for further questioning, Aikey indicated to investigators that if “police would just go through her phone, they would be able to ‘put two and two together,’ adding that the shooter’s name and contact information was in her phone,” Kontz said.
When Aikey overheard police mention Washington’s name as a possible suspect, she “demanded to know why she was still being held ‘since you (now) have the name of the guy that did the shooting,’ ” Kontz said.
On probation for an undisclosed crime, Aikey, 43, was placed later that day in the Lycoming County Prison on a probation violation. She remained incarcerated Thursday night.
Washington, of 1120 Franklin St., was taken into custody at an undisclosed location on Tuesday and jailed in the Clinton County Prison on a bench warrant.
On Wednesday morning, he was brought before District Judge James Carn and arraigned on city police charges of possession with intent to deliver 12 baggies of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia.
The charges stem from an incident in the 2000 block of Newberry Street clear back on May 5, 2013. However, the charges were not filed until Wednesday, He was returned to the prison in lieu of $35,000 bail.
Washington, on probation for a drug offense, was arraigned Thursday before District Judge Allen P. Page III on charges of attempted homicide, robbery, aggravated assault, possession of an instrument of crime, carrying a firearm without a license, theft and receiving stolen property.
“The victim is still in ICU with multiple injuries,” Kontz told Page during the proceedings, which was attended by several members of Phillips’ family.
Washington was return to the prison in lieu of an additional $750,000 bail.
The cab driver’s family declined to talk to the Sun-Gazette, but one relative told WNEP that “We want everyone to keep praying for Gene. That’s all we care about now is Gene.”
Another relative said “We just want him (Washington) to pay for what he did. Gene’s a great man. He’s making improvements.”