Witness testifies in case of Minneapolis grandmother's shooting death

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Vigil for Birdell Beeks.
A vigil hosted by Mad Dads was held in honor of Birdell Beeks at the intersection 21st and Penn avenues in Minneapolis on May 31, 2016, near where she was shot while sitting in her van.
Brandt Williams | MPR News 2016

A cooperating witness testified Thursday afternoon in the case of Joshua Ezeka, who is charged with the shooting that killed 58-year-old Birdell Beeks in north Minneapolis more than a year ago.

Hennepin county prosecutors allege that Ezeka, 21, fired nine shots at a passing car he believed was driven by a gang rival on May 26, 2016. One of those bullets hit and killed Beeks, whose van was stopped at a nearby intersection. Her final words to her granddaughter in the passenger seat of the van were, "Baby, they got me."

Ezeka is facing five felony charges, including first- and second-degree murder and assault with a dangerous weapon.

Joshua Chiazor Ezeka was charged in the shooting death of Birdell Beeks.
Joshua Chiazor Ezeka was charged in the shooting death of Birdell Beeks.
Hennepin County Jail

Prosecutors said Freddy Scott, 22, tipped Ezeka off that a rival was driving down Penn Avenue. Scott was charged with aiding an offender and later agreed to testify against Ezeka in exchange for a sentence of 36 months in prison.

The defense has argued that Ezeka didn't intentionally take Beeks' life, and that he was just trying to frighten his gang rival.

When deputies brought Scott into the courtroom, Ezeka, who has been mostly expressionless throughout the trial, shook his head slightly.

Scott told the court he was a member of the "Stick Up Boys," who are affiliated with a gang alliance called the "Lows," of which Ezeka was also a member.

Under prosecution questioning, Scott testified that he saw a rival associated with the "Highs" driving a gold car on Penn Avenue the day Birdell Beeks was shot. Scott said he called Ezeka with the information, expecting him to shoot at the rival.

Scott testified that he turned off Penn right before the shooting. He then pulled up in front of Ezeka's house and Ezeka got into the passenger seat.

"He just told me he was shooting, but afterward we didn't know that he hit the lady," Scott said.

The two drove together to Scott's home, where they smoked weed and listened to music. Scott said he didn't learn of Beeks' death for a few days.

"I just feel like those bullets weren't meant for her, that's all," Scott said after prosecutors asked why he was remorseful.

Under defense questioning, Scott admitted to sometimes lying in earlier statements about parts of his involvement in the incident, including who was in the car with him.

Other witnesses that appeared on Thursday included an FBI agent who tracked where Scott and Ezeka's phones were before, during and after the shooting.

A Minneapolis Police Department forensics expert also testified that a number of bullets and ammunition boxes were found in Ezeka's home after it was searched after the shooting.

The trial is set to resume on Friday morning.