Judge cites community safety in denying bail in Pittsfield shooting

David Moody, left, 28, has been ordered held without the right to bail until Aug. 28, after a shooting on Glenwood Avenue in Pittsfield. Laquan M. Johnson, 25, right, will be held without the right to bail until Sept. 1.

PITTSFIELD — A city man accused of gun charges was ordered held without bail for 120 days on Friday, after a dangerousness hearing in Central Berkshire District Court.

Laquan M. Johnson, 25, was one of two men arrested early Thursday in a shooting on Glenwood Avenue. The other man, David Moody, 28, appeared in court later that day, also for a dangerousness hearing, and was ordered held without the right to bail until Aug. 28.

Judge Jennifer Tyne presided over Friday's hearing, ultimately deciding that Johnson presented a danger to himself and the community.

"I do find that the commonwealth has met their burden by providing clear and convincing evidence that there are no conditions of release that will reasonably ensure the safety of the community," Tyne said.

Johnson and Moody were taken into custody about 2:40 a.m. Thursday, after a shooting about an hour earlier outside a Glenwood Avenue home. No injuries were reported.

On Friday, Assistant Berkshire District Attorney Joseph Yorlano submitted two interviews from recent years in which Johnson admitted to previous gang activity. In 2015, Johnson was interviewed at a hospital after suffering a gunshot wound to his foot.

"Police believe he had shot himself, however, he mentioned that he had been shot at Pepe's bar," Yorlano said. "An unknown gunman had come up and shot him at that time. At that time, he said he was with his friend, David Moody.

"In both interviews, Mr. Johnson is very clear about his history with gangs," Yorlano continued. "He describes himself as a high-ranking member of the Crips, although in both interviews he said he had left the gang life."

The other interview stemmed from a 2014 murder that Johnson had been on trial for last year, in a shooting during a drug deal in Pittsfield. But, after one witness refused to testify and other witnesses recanted their statements, a judge dismissed the case before it went to the jury in October.

"Simply stated, the individual, Laquan Johnson, is living a dangerous life. I will state the obvious, he had just been on trial for second-degree murder in September," Yorlano said.

"He was found not guilty. To be clear, I'm not asking you to consider in any way those set of events, except one thing. If he had been convicted on that crime, he would be serving life in prison. And yet, within less than a year, he is found in a motor vehicle with a gun, and having just been shooting the firearm outside."

The shooting Thursday morning consisted of five gunshots. Officers found five 9 mm shell casings in the road and later found a bullet lodged inside a Ford F-250 pickup truck parked on the street.

Based on an interview with a witness, police issued an alert for a gray, four-door Honda Civic that previously had been seen turning onto Stoddard Avenue. The vehicle was followed and stopped about 2:40 a.m., after a female exited the car at a green light on Daniels Avenue, with Johnson driving and Moody in the passenger seat.

An empty handgun found in the car appeared to be a .380 Sig Sauer. It's unclear whether police believe that the gun found was used in the shooting.

Tyne asked whether the firearm found was compatible with a 9 mm bullet, like the one found at the scene. Though police had yet to perform tests, Yorlano said they believe that the two are compatible.

Johnson was represented by attorney Robert W. Kinzer III, who called into question the handling of the arrest and highlighted recent positive changes in Johnson's life.

Kinzer said that the witness didn't identify anyone in the car, and he questioned why police waited until after a third party exited the vehicle to perform the stop.

"Begs the question, why wasn't the female detained when she got out of the car and also charged?" asked Kinzer, who also noted that the vehicle is not registered to Johnson.

Kinzer cast doubt on whether Johnson was a danger to the community, bringing up the 2015 shooting in which his client was a victim. He also reiterated the outcome of last fall's murder trial, and noted that while Johnson was awaiting trial, he was out on conditions of release for over a year without incident.

"It wasn't just dismissed; he was acquitted. That was a not guilty finding on Oct. 1, 2019. I believe it was a directed verdict from the court," Kinzer said.

"In both of those [statements], he denies any act of gang involvement at that time. He admits that he had previously been connected to a gang but, as far back as 2016, indicated that he wasn't involved at all.

"It seems hard to fathom why the commonwealth would continue to dredge up denials of gang membership from three or four years ago to suggest that he is involved in a gang now."

Kinzer said that Johnson was was living on North Street with his 67-year-old grandmother, whom he helps care for, and was working full time at Stop & Shop.

Johnson will be held without the right to bail until Sept. 1.

Mike Walsh can be reached at mwalsh@berkshireeagle.com.