published Saturday, June 25th, 2011

Teen shooting suspect faces multiple court dates

Lonta Burress leaves Judge David Norton's court Friday with his court-appointed attorney Kevin Loper.
Lonta Burress leaves Judge David Norton's court Friday with his court-appointed attorney Kevin Loper.
Photo by Tim Barber.
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A 17-year-old faces court hearings next month on charges that he fired into a crowd at a school bus stop late last year and fatally shot another teen in early June.

The family of Lonta Burress Jr. hired attorney Kevin Loper to represent him on a criminal homicide charge in the June 1 death of Darrius “Little D” Townsend.

On Friday in Hamilton County Criminal Court, Burress waived his right to a quick hearing to meet with his new attorney. He is being held in the Hamilton County Jail on a $1 million bond.

The homicide charge is scheduled for a July 12 hearing before Hamilton County General Sessions Court Judge Clarence Shattuck.

At least 10 of Townsend’s family and friends were in court on Friday, wearing homemade T-shirts with the teen’s face and his birth and death dates on the front and the words “Rest in Paradise” emblazoned on the back.

Laronda Townsend, Darrius’ mother, spoke briefly with local media in the courthouse hallway immediately after the hearing.

“We’re not looking for retaliation, we’re looking for justice and an answer why,” she said. “This is ridiculous.”

Townsend said in a previous interview with the Chattanooga Times Free Press that her son and Burress grew up in the same neighborhood and were childhood friends. She speculated in that interview that her son may have been killed as part of some rank-climbing gang ritual.

Executive Assistant District Attorney Neal Pinkston said he could not comment on details of pending cases against Burress.

Burress also faced charges in connection with the Coolidge Park shootings in March 2010, but charges were dismissed in Juvenile Court when a witness changed testimony at an earlier hearing, Pinkston said.

Witness Dejuan Upshaw was later indicted on charges of filing false reports and aggravated perjury. Upshaw, 19, is scheduled to appear in Criminal Court on July 28.

Burress also was brought to Juvenile Court for charges in connection with a Dec. 7 bus stop shooting at 3210 Through St. Witnesses told police that someone in a red Ford F-150 pickup fired six to 10 shots from two .38-caliber revolvers at students standing at the bus stop about 2:30 p.m. No one was injured.

Officers later arrested Burress as a suspect in the shooting. The case has been transferred to Criminal Court.

A Hamilton County grand jury in March indicted Burress on three counts of aggravated assault, two counts of evading arrest, one count of leaving the scene of an accident, one count of reckless driving and one count of theft in connection with the school bus stop shooting.

He was released on bond and was waiting for his hearing in that case when police say he shot Townsend on June 1.

Burress also faces a hearing on unrelated charges in Criminal Court Judge Don Poole’s courtroom July 20.

about Todd South...

Todd South covers courts, poverty, technology, military and veterans for the Times Free Press. He has worked at the paper since 2008 and previously covered crime and safety in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia. Todd’s hometown is Dodge City, Kan. He served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps and deployed to Iraq before returning to school for his journalism degree from the University of Georgia. Todd previously worked at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. Contact ...

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