Pre-trial proceedings will continue in the case of 27-year-old Miguel “Mikey” Vega after a judge found probable cause for his arrest on a murder charge.
State’s Attorney Michael Regan said several eyewitnesses had known Vega for many years and identified him as a shooter in an early morning murder on March 3, 2010. Two armed men entered an apartment at 53 Prest Street at about 2:30 a.m. Shots were fired, resulting in the death of 21-year-old Rahmel Perry and injury of then 20-year-old Michael Ellis, Jr. Vega was later arrested on drug charges in Georgia and .
Judge Patrick J. Clifford said there was probable cause that Vega was one of the men and that he had entered the apartment without permission, made threatening statements, and opened fire with the intent to cause injury or death. Vega’s attorney, Bruce McIntyre, said there were several issues he wishes to address at trial but would reserve comment due to the “low threshold” of meeting probable cause.
According to witnesses inside the apartment, Ellis had gotten into a confrontation with Vega earlier in the evening at the . Ellis, who was in custody due to pending charges in Norwich, said the fight started when Vega motioned for him to move away from the mother of his child and Ellis did not do so. He said Vega then struck him in the face and the two fought for some time. After the confrontation, Ellis and his friends returned to the apartment.
Ellis said that when the two men entered, Vega was wearing a black hooded sweatshirt and had his face masked, but that he pulled down the mask and said, “What now?” upon entering the living room. Ellis said he ran past Vega, pushing his cousin Shariymah James into a bedroom, and fought briefly with the second man before fleeing the apartment.
After leaving, Ellis said he heard gunshots and was hit first in the leg and then in the back as he ran toward Blackhall Street. He said he did not see who was shooting at him, and that he spent a week recovering at .
James said she went to the apartment with her five-year-old son after getting into an argument with her boyfriend. She said Ellis had a swollen eye when he returned from the bar with other people and told about the fight there. James said that when the men entered, she recognized Vega after he pulled down his mask and said, “You think this is an [expletive] game?”
Vega started shooting after one women jumped out the apartment’s window, James said. She said that when she returned to the living room after hiding in a bedroom, Perry was lying on the couch.
“Everyone was just screaming,” she said. “They were saying, ‘Rahmel, Rahmel!’”
Shauntay Ellis, Michael’s cousin, said she was visiting the apartment when the men entered. She said she recognized Vega and hid in a bedroom during the shooting. She said two others tried to revive Perry, and that she drove him to the hospital in her vehicle.
Officer Justin Clachrie of the said he responded to the report of the shooting. He said he met Ellis on Blackhall Street, saw the gunshot wound to his back, and rode with him in the ambulance to the hospital. He said Perry was in the same hospital room as Ellis and died after medical staff unsuccessfully tried to revive him with CPR.
Officer Darrin O’Mara said he also responded to the scene at Blackhall Street, but went to the Prest Street apartment after receiving a call of a disturbance there. He said he saw a damaged second-floor window and people outside the residence, but found no one after searching the apartment and basement.
The witnesses said they did not know who the other man who entered the apartment was. One witness, Alice Phillips, identified him in police statements as Vega’s brother but said on Wednesday that this was a misunderstanding.
“It’s not accurate because they said that I said I saw both of their faces,” she said.
Under cross-examination, McIntyre questioned witnesses on their recollection of events and how clear a view they got of the men who entered. Ellis said the sweatshirts were tightened so that he could see the face from the top of the nose to the chin, and that he saw the face for about a minute. Parrish said there was dim lighting in the apartment and estimated she saw the face from about three feet away. When asked how long she had seen the face, she replied, “Long enough to know it was Mikey.”
McIntyre also questioned whether any of the witnesses saw any injuries to the face, noting that Vega had been in a fight earlier in the evening. Shariymah Jones said she did not see any cuts or bruises on the man’s face. Phillips, said she saw some bruising on Vega’s face after the fight at the bar.
Clifford recorded not guilty pleas to the charges against Vega: murder, criminal attempt to commit murder, first-degree assault, home invasion, and criminal possession of a firearm. He also set his next court date for Sept. 30 and unsealed a police affidavit. Vega remains imprisoned on a $2 million bond.