HOUSTON (AP) – A charge of deadly conduct was dropped Tuesday against one of the men initially identified by authorities as responsible for a burst of gunfire at a weekend house party in suburban Houston that left two teenagers dead.
Harris County authorities said Willie Young, 21, was among the more than 100 people who attended the birthday party in Cypress. But the charge against him was dropped after police interviews with partygoers contradicted earlier witnesses who claimed they saw Young fire a weapon.
Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson on Tuesday declined to offer any further explanation, but said investigators contacted her office requesting that the charge be dropped because of new information.
Eighteen-year-old Randy Stewart remains in custody in connection to the shooting late Saturday. He’s charged with aggravated assault and his bail is set at $250,000.
Harris County sheriff’s officials said they’re seeking at least two other suspects in the shooting that also left 19 others injured.
A community activist who met Young when he was released from Harris County Jail late Tuesday afternoon said Young deserves an apology from authorities for being falsely accused.
Young declined to comment to reporters after his release, but activist Quanell X said Young had been wrongly accused in a rush to judgment.
Standing next to Young as he addressed reporters, Quanell X called Young “a hero” and said he helped take people wounded at the party to the hospital.
Authorities believe gangs played a role in the shooting, but it isn’t clear if they initiated the gunfire or just escalated it, according to Katherine McDaniel, a prosecutor with the Harris County District Attorney’s Office.
“It’s a fair assumption that the shooting occurred as part of a gang dispute,” she said.
Qu’eric Richardson, 17, was dead at the scene, and Arielle Shepherd, 16, died after being taken to an area hospital.
Saturday’s shooting took place at a house party in Cypress, an unincorporated area about 25 miles northwest of Houston. The gathering was promoted openly on several social media sites. When the shooting began, panicked partygoers fled into the street, with some of them escaping the home by jumping out of second-story windows and others pushing open a garage door.
Harris County sheriff’s officials have said they still believe the shooting started as a result of celebratory gunfire, but investigators are still working to gather information.
McDaniel said Richardson, who died from a gunshot wound to the head, was shot outside the home and died on the street several blocks away. McDaniel did not know if Richardson might have been chased down before being shot.
The prosecutor said that Richardson and Stewart were friends and might have been in the same gang.
Last month, Stewart was charged with check forgery. Court records show that the $460 check Stewart is accused of forging was made out to Richardson. Authorities said it was unclear if the forgery case played any role in the shooting.
McDaniel urged anybody who has additional information about the shooting to come forward and “hold those responsible accountable.”
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