Trial goes on for accused driver in city homicide

By SETH NOLAN

snolan@sungazette.com

A retired city police agent testified Tuesday that he gave Brandon Love every opportunity to tell the truth about where he was the night Jamil M. Bryant was gunned down with an assault rifle outside of Bryant’s home in 2015.

Police interviews with Love, accused of driving the shooter to an area near 406 Anthony St. where Bryant was fatally shot 13 times, were the focus of the 22-year-old Love’s second day of trial Tuesday.

Love, of Williamsport, was charged with criminal homicide, aggravated assault, two conspiracy counts and obstruction of justice for being behind the wheel of the car that carried Terrance X. Perez, 23, and Cosme Berrones, 22, through the city’s East End looking for Bryant on May 11, 2015.

Perez shot 17 .22-caliber rounds from a Smith and Wesson M&P assault rifle outside of Bryant’s home just after 10:30 p.m. Thirteen of them hit Bryant in the head, torso, hand and thigh, according to an autopsy.

Testimony showed that the shooting stemmed from $20 worth of marijuana Bryant had shorted a friend earlier in the day.

The big question raised by Love’s attorney, Christian A. Lovecchio, is whether or not Love knew Perez was going to kill Bryant when he drove him around that night.

Tuesday, retired city police agent and lead investigator of the case, Raymond O. Kontz III, took the stand to testify about his interactions with Love after the murder.

Love was first questioned by Kontz on May 12, 2015. Kontz said he knew about the argument that had occurred between Love, Perez and Bryant, which was related to the sale of the marijuana, and which led up to the shooting.

Love first told police that he left nearly 15 minutes before the shooting to go to Bloomsburg with Berrones. The two were going to pick up some of Berrones’ clothes from the apartment he stayed in while enrolled as a student there. But Kontz said he knew Berrones was never a student of the university.

When asked why GPS information from his cellphone showed Love was still in the city that night, Love maintained that he was on the highway heading to Bloomsburg.

“No,” Love said. “I am very positive we would have been on the highway then.”

Love was taken into custody after he failed to show up to a second scheduled interview with police and was questioned on May 14, 2015.

During a recording of the nearly 40-minute interview played in court Tuesday, Love admits to lying about being in Bloomsburg during the shooting.

Matching what others who had been at Berrones’ house on Third Avenue the night of the shooting said, Love said he was there with Perez, who was arguing with Bryant over the phone. But Love told Kontz he dropped Perez off on Washington Boulevard, near Bryant’s residence, and went with Berrones to “bust some traps,” or sell marijuana.

Love said when he dropped Perez off, he didn’t see Perez carrying a gun.

Despite what Kontz said were nearly two dozen 911 calls reporting audible shots in the area, Love said he didn’t hear any. He picked Perez back up close-by, but didn’t see the gun, according to the interview.

“He must’ve ditched it before he got in my car,” Love can be heard saying.

After Love picked Perez up, the three went back to Berrones’ where Perez changed and left, Love said.

As Perez was leaving, Love said he heard him say, “I just shot ‘Mil (Bryant). Let me know when he dies.”

Text messages between Bryant and Love indicate that they got into an argument that began at 2:25 p.m. the day of the shooting.

The last text from Bryant was at 9:10 p.m. The next time Love received a message, it was from Bryant’s older brother, reading: “You just shot my lil’ bro.”

In that chunk of time, serious threats were exchanged between Bryant and Love, including to Love’s girlfriend and their child.

Perez joins the argument sometime that evening. The question of what Love and Berrones knew about Perez’ plans to kill Bryant was raised again in Lovecchio’s cross-examination of witnesses who heard the arguments. Both main witnesses said Tuesday that they didn’t overhear explicit plans to harm Bryant.

Perez was sentenced to life in prison after a jury found him guilty of pulling the trigger on Nov. 2, 2016.

Berrones pleaded guilty to third-degree homicide in exchange for 12 to 25 years in state prison. He testified in both Perez and Love’s trials and will be sentenced at a later date.

The trial was recessed until Thursday.