A teenager found shot to death on a North Little Rock street corner in March had gone with three friends -- now accused of murdering him -- to shoot up a home in a mission of revenge, a detective testified Thursday.
Jaylen LaRon Brown of Little Rock was killed by a gunshot in the back of his head on the northwest corner of Lansbrook Drive and East Bethany Road March 31, about 1½ hours before sunrise. The 17-year-old boy was found on his side, lying on top of a loaded orange 9 mm handgun, with 23 spent .40-caliber shell casings scattered nearby.
Police had been called to the neighborhood because a nearby home at 2305 Lansbrook Drive, the residence of Makayla Harris, had been struck by bullets.
Detectives couldn't immediately identify Brown and figuring out who he was took several days, eventually requiring DNA from his father to confirm his identity. Police learned he had been reported missing by his family in Little Rock the day before he was killed, detective Jeff Coburn said.
Coburn said once investigators figured out who Brown was, they went looking for the Little Rock teenagers with whom his family had last seen him: 19-year-old Cortlen Waters; Joseph Earnest Dickerson Jr., who turns 17 today; Janovee Tamacco Brown; and Janovee Brown's twin brother. All of them but the Brown twin were charged with first-degree murder and committing a terroristic act in May, about two months after Jaylen Brown was killed.
The Brown twins, who turned 18 Saturday, and Jaylen Brown are not related.
All four of the teens gave statements to police, saying they were with Jaylen Brown when he was killed, the detective told Pulaski County Circuit Judge Karen Whatley at a bond hearing for the three defendants who are jailed under $1 million bail each. Their lawyers have asked for a bail reduction, which the judge said she would consider.
The detective said he does not know which of the three defendants shot Jaylen Brown, testifying that Waters has implicated Dickerson while Dickerson has named Janovee Brown as the killer, although police have heard Janovee Brown and Jaylen Brown were close friends. He said the Brown twins reported receiving social media threats over the slaying.
Summarizing his interviews with the three defendants and Janovee Brown's twin, Jacovee Jamocco Brown, the detective testified that the four had driven in Jaylen Brown's car to North Little Rock to "drill," which is slang for shooting up or at a home to scare its occupants.
They had gathered in the middle of the night because the twins said they had located a house that was connected to whomever had shot Waters, and Dickerson had guided them to the North Little Rock neighborhood using his phone's GPS, while Jacovee Brown drove, the detective said. The group had three guns between them -- an orange 9 mm, a .40-caliber pistol and a second 9 mm -- and had first gone to Alexander to get ammunition. The detective said police confirmed the group's travels using the GPS on Brown's phone.
Waters, who said he had the .40-caliber pistol, said Dickerson and Jaylen Brown had quarreled during the drive to North Little Rock over the way Brown had racked the orange pistol when it already had a round chambered, with Dickerson trying to take the weapon from Brown, according to the detective.
Waters told police that after shooting at the house, he turned to his right and saw Brown on the ground with Dickerson standing over him, his hands on his head, saying, "I've got to get out of town."
Waters said that when the group realized Brown had been shot they tried to put him into the car but were unable to so they left him, the detective testified.
The detective said that during questioning Dickerson denied shooting Brown, stating Dickerson claimed to have associations with the North Little Rock street gang Gutta Boys and MS Piru, a Bloods-gang affiliate, although Dickerson's lawyer disputed that characterization.
The judge also heard testimony from the defendants' relatives that neither Waters nor Janovee Brown had ever been in trouble with the law, while Dickerson's run-ins with authority were minor -- a Central High School suspension for fighting in January and an ongoing case in juvenile court for marijuana possession.
The detective did not address how Waters came to be shot, but a Little Rock police report states that the teen was found wounded in the chest and right arm by gunfire about 3 a.m. Aug. 4, 2020, in the 5400 block of Stanley Drive.
Police found Waters' car in the middle of the street with the seriously wounded teenager lying on the sidewalk. Investigators later received information that witnesses saw Waters, then 16, fighting over a gun with a 15-year-old boy the witnesses knew as Chopper when Waters was shot. No arrests were made.