One of the victims of the Somers House Tavern shooting testified Wednesday that the alleged gunman was not in danger before he started firing his weapon.
Jordan Momani, 27, lived above the tavern, 1548 Sheridan Road, in Somers, when the shooting occurred on April 18.
Momani, who did “odds and ends” for the tavern, said he was approached by the establishment’s proprietor early that morning to help “keep an eye” on Rakayo Vinson, who had just gotten into a fight with another tavern patron over a shoulder bump in the crowded tavern.
Momani on Wednesday took the witness stand on the third day of the trial of Vinson, the 25-year-old Kenosha man accused of killing three and injuring three in the incident at the popular tavern located just north of the Carthage College campus.
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Momani said he first came into contact with Vinson on the tavern’s outdoor deck and had “no clue what was going on.”
Earlier that night, Vinson was separated from 22-year-old Kevin Donaldson after getting into a fight that left Vinson with a bloody face. Donaldson, along with Cedric Gaston, 24, and Atkeem Stevenson, 26, were kicked out of the bar. Vinson is charged with killing the three Kenosha men.
Momani said he followed Vinson toward a railing on the east side of the property when Gaston and Stevenson approached Vinson with raised voices.
“They were walking with a little bit of urgency,” Momani recalled. “They asked the person I was told to keep an eye on ‘So, what’s up?’”
Momani said that’s when Vinson allegedly replied, “You know what’s up,” and then pulled out a gun.
Momani said he did not believe the two men posed a threat to Vinson because they stopped about three feet in front of the defendant and did not touch him at this point.
“One of them yelled ‘gun!’” Momani said. He said that’s when Vinson started firing.
Momani said he dove underneath a nearby picnic table and heard Vinson firing rounds. He was shot in the chest while on the ground.
“Had you done anything aggressive to the person firing?” Kenosha County District Attorney Michael Graveley asked Momani on the stand.
“No,” Momani replied.
“Were you yelling any threats or anything to the person firing?” Graveley asked.
“No,” Momani replied.
“What were you doing?” Gravely later asked.
“I was laying on the ground,” Momani replied.
After being shot, Momani said he remembers laying on the ground waiting for first responders. The bullet entered him on his side, traveled across his chest and stopped in his right shoulder.
When questioned by Donald Bielski, Vinson’s defense attorney, Momani said he believes Vinson purposely aimed his gun at him.
He said Vinson “looked angry” before he started shooting.
Vinson, of the 6000 block of 25th Avenue, faces three felony counts of first-degree intentional homicide and three felony counts of attempted first-degree intentional homicide. Each count carries a mandatory life prison sentence.
Started as minor dispute
Gravely, who is prosecuting the case before Circuit Court Judge Bruce Schroeder, argued during Vinson’s bond hearing after the accused’s arrest that the shooting began with a “minor dispute,” a shoulder bump, in the tavern popular with college students.
The shooting happened at about 12:40 a.m., according to the criminal complaint in the bar “so packed you almost could not move,” Graveley said.
Vinson and someone else allegedly bumped shoulders earlier that night. Vinson and Donaldson then engaged in a physical fight — Vinson was punched during the altercation — that led the tavern owner to kick out Donaldson, Gaston and Stevenson.
At that point, the owner took Vinson to the bathroom “to calm him down, then took him out to the patio area” after the fight, Kenosha County Sheriff’s Detective Jason Sielski testified during Vinson’s preliminary hearing on July 9.
The owner asked Momani to keep an eye on Vinson while he went to see if the other three men had left.
Authorities believe that Gaston was shot first; his body was found just outside the front door of the tavern when deputies arrived. A witness then saw Vinson shooting at Stevenson. Vinson and Donaldson exchanged gunfire on the east side of Sheridan Road, according to the complaint.
Video showed Vinson jumping a fence from the patio into the parking lot. His wallet was found by investigators at the spot he jumped the fence. He was arrested later that day after a relative reported he had taken the family member’s vehicle without permission.
Vinson has been held at the Kenosha County Jail on a $4 million cash bond since his initial appearance on April 21 before Court Commissioner Larry Keating.