BY JAMES HARPER
April 16 is a date Wisteria Harry will never forget. It was two years ago on this date that her son, Donnell “D.J.’’ Ellis, was shot and killed in the parking lot of a Holly Hill motel.
The killing involved seven individuals but has affected the lives of many more, primarily Harry who is still seeking justice for her son.
On Tuesday, the two-year anniversary of her son’s death, Harry along with family members and friends protested in front of the Holly Hill police station, the Pilot Motel and the Tropizar Motel, where her son collapsed. He was shot at the Pilot Motel during what Holly Hill police called a robbery involving drugs. No drugs were ever discovered at the scene of the shooting.
Lost two children
Harry cites that because of “shoddy’’ work of police officers, the wrong people are serving life sentences for the death of her son. And Harry is upset that the police report written says her son had a gun. After speaking with witnesses herself, Harry says she believes her son never had a gun.
The mother of three is not only grieving the loss of her son but also mourning the death of her 26 year-old daughter who died Feb. 13 of this year. Coincidently, it is the same day her son, Donnell, was born 20 years ago.
Harry said her daughter Shawquice Ellis died after complications from surgery. Harry is now raising Shawquice’ children, who are 1 years old and 4 years old.
Around Harry’s neck is a chain with a picture of each of her deceased children. She obtained the first necklace shortly after her son was killed on April 16, 2011, to honor and remember him. In addition, she’s often seen wearing a T-shirt that bears images of her children.
Harry has not been alone on her journey.
What many might consider unlikely allies, Harry is waging her fight with the mother of one of the men convicted of killing her son.
In a sense, Angela Johnson also lost her son, Leroy Gadson, who was given a life sentence for his involvement in Donnell’s shooting even though he did not pull the trigger that killed him.
In a police report, Chauncy Gilmore, who was 17 at the time in 2011, admitted to firing the fatal shot, but was only given five years for possession of a firearm because it was determined by law enforcement that he acted in self-defense. He went to the motel room with two others – Lawrence Kloc and Jamie Evans – to allegedly do a drug deal with the guest occupant of the room, Roy Crew. In the room with Crew was Gadson, Ellis and Durshawn Broadwater, all who were shot with the exception of Crew. Ellis was the only one who died in the shooting.
Crew and Gadson took their case to trial. Both were found guilty and sentenced to life sentences even though neither was found to have fired a shot.
Klare Ly, a spokesman for the State Attorney’s office, said Gadson and Crew were offered lower sentences prior to trial but they chose to go to trial.
Gadson was found guilty during a second trial in January. During his first trial in January, there was a hung jury.
“No idea why they hung or what the count was. The jury tells the judge of a hung jury and no count is taken on a hung jury,” Ly said.
Two years later, Broadwater and Kloc have yet to be sentenced, said Ly, who noted that their sentences have been delayed by the defense. Tentatively, Broadwater is scheduled for sentencing on April 30; Broadwater on May 17.
Ly said Harry, the mother of Donnell Ellis, continues to urge that the state pursue charges against Jamie Evans.
“However, after careful examination, Mr. Evans was the only person present that did not commit a crime. D.J. Ellis was shot and killed by a boy named Chauncey Gilmore,” Ly stated.
“Mr. Gilmore received five years in prison for his role in this incident even though the shooting was deemed to have been committed in self-defense – defense of others. Mr. Broadwater and Mr. Kloc are pending sentencing. All four were state witnesses against Mr. Crew and Mr. Gadson.’’
In an exclusive interview with the Daytona Times, Harry said she was told that nobody was receiving deals.
“They (State Attorney) didn’t care about me. I found out (about the deals) during the trial,” Harry said.
Gilmore was sentenced to the charge of possession of a firearm by an adjudicated delinquent, a second-degree felony.
According to the Holly Hill Police Department report, Gadson did perpetrate the act of robbery and in that attempt did cause the death of Ellis as result of a shooting.
The report stated Gadson was not the person who actually killed Ellis but did procure the commission of the robbery.
Altercation, then shots
At 4:17 p.m. on April 16, 2011, a black ford expedition entered the south parking lot of the Pilot Lodge Motel at 1400 Ridgewood Ave. in Holly Hill.
According to all of the individuals in the car, Evans, Kloc and Gilmore, Kloc left the vehicle and gained entry into the room, which was registered under Crew’s name. An altercation ensued and shots were fired.
At the time of the shooting, Broadwater, Gadson and Ellis were inside the room with Crew, the registered guest. All three were shot. Ellis died as result of his injuries and was pronounced dead at Halifax Medical Center.
The report also stated that during the altercation Evans was shot, which Harry disputes, alleging he received his wounds from shattered window glass.
Evans arrived at Halifax Medical Center shortly after the other three who were shot.
Drug deal goes bad
According to Evans, he and two others – Kloc and Gilmore – were going to room 3 to engage in a narcotics transaction. Broadwater, Gadson and Ellis were not supposed to be present. The deal was between Crew, the registered guest of the room, and Kloc, the driver of the expedition.
Crew was observed speaking to Kloc through the driver window.
According to Kloc, Evans and Gilmore, Crew lured Kloc into the hotel room for the purpose of conducting a drug transaction. When Kloc entered the room, the occupants of the room allegedly began to beat Kloc in an effort to forcibly take the drugs and his possessions. It also was reported that one of the individuals possibly Ellis held a gun to his head.
The report continued to state that Evans and Gilmore saw signs of a struggle inside and became suspicious. As they approached room 3, Gilmore obtained a .380 caliber handgun. When they reached the door, Ellis exited and began firing a weapon – a silver and black 9 mm handgun. Evans allegedly sustained a gunshot wound to the forearm.
Ellis, according to the police report, then turned the gun toward Gilmore. Gilmore was not injured, but returned fire. One of those rounds struck Ellis in the chest, killing him.
Kloc exited the room and retrieved the handgun from Gilmore. Kloc then returned to the room and fired several shots at Broadwater and Gadson. Both Broadwater and Gadson were injured in the shooting. Neither of them was armed at the time.
Crime scene investigators have recovered .380 caliber casings and located several blood trails leading from the room.
No casings were retried from the gun allegedly fired by Ellis.
Ellis, allegedly, after having been shot, returned fire before collapsing in the parking lot of the Tropizar Motel parking, 1401 Ridgewood Ave.
Law enforcement officers conducted interviews with Kloc, Evans Gilmore, Broadwater, Gadson and Crews.
The statements of Kloc, Evans and Gilmore remained consistent throughout and were corroborated by physical evidence and video surveillance, the police report stated.
Harry alleges that this is because they were not arrested until four days later and had time to get their stories together.
The police report also revealed Kloc, Evans and Gilmore were responsible for the recovery of both weapons used in this incident.
Broadwater, Gadson and Crew have maintained that they had no part in a drug deal or attempted robbery.
The attorney representing Gadson, Kevin Bledsoe, said in an interview with the Daytona Times this week that the reason Gadson was found guilty in the second trial was because the prosecutors were able to introduce as evidence a recorded statement made by Evans to a family member who is incarcerated in Seminole county.
The statement, made hours after the shooting, was consistent with the allegations that there was a drug deal and robbery in which Gadson, Broadwater and Ellis were the perpetrators, said the report.
“The state didn’t have evidence this was a robbery. Mr. Gadson didn’t shoot anybody. He didn’t want his friend to be shot. There is no evidence D.J. had a gun, ” Bledsoe said.
“All of the guns that were used were in the possession of Kloc, Gilmore and Evans. One of the guns was used to kill D.J. Ellis,” Bledsoe continued.
Another mother’s story
Angela Johnson, the mother of Gadson, is working on an appeal of her son’s sentencing. “My son was also a victim. I don’t understand. He was also shot,” Johnson said.
Johnson also remembers April 16 two years ago as if it happened this week.
She said people were calling her and telling her son was dead after being shot at a motel.
“I went to praying,” said Johnson, who now regrets not answering the phone that day when her son tried to call her.
When Johnson finally saw her son in the hospital, she said he told her what happened.
“He didn’t have a gun. He did not give D.J. Ellis a gun. It was not a robbery that took place,” she continued.
Johnson admitted her son was no “goody goody.’’ He has had problems with the law in the past. “But he would not participate in a robbery of this sort,” she said.
She also said she understands why other young Black teens carry guns.
“We are living in a world of violence. They think they got to have a gun on them because they don’t know what might happen. They are so scared,” she related.
“We don’t need these guns. Kick butt. Shake hands and move on,” Johnson said, reminiscing how kids used to solve differences when she was her son’s age.
“I want everybody to know my son has been wrongly convicted. We’ve got to stand up and fight until the real truth comes out,” she related.
Johnson said her son was never offered a plea and would have considered it.
“The state’s making deals with the killers to try to convict the innocent,” she concluded.
Wisteria Harry was at a funeral when she got the news her son had been shot.
Harry had also received a call from her son before the shooting.
“He always called me when he wanted me to come and pick him up. My baby was calling me to come pick him up and I didn’t answer,” Harry said, holding back tears.