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Gang-shooting conviction marks 1st use of new law

CTY-TERRANCE-LAMAR-PETTIS

Terrance Lamar Pettis told the court he has been active in gangs since 1995, including five years he spent in prison.

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A Toledo man who wounded a 16-year-old boy in a drive-by shooting became the first person in Lucas County convicted on a gang-related charge under a law that went effect two years ago.

Terrance Lamar Pettis, whose trial began Tuesday in Lucas County Common Pleas Court, pleaded guilty yesterday to charges of participating in a criminal gang and felonious assault. In exchange for the plea, prosecutors agreed to dismiss an attempted murder charge.

The agreement called for Pettis, 23, of 2638 Maplewood Ave., to receive a 10-year prison sentence, which Judge Robert Christiansen imposed immediately.

The maximum sentence for the two charges, which include specifications for using a gun in the commission of a crime, is 37 years.

Dennis Scott, of the 2400 block of Hollywood Avenue, was shot May 2 in a park on Highland Avenue near his home, a day after Pettis was beaten by members of a rival gang. Young Scott, who was shot in the back, was with two people who police believed had participated in the beating.

The state law used to convict Pettis took effect in 1999. Pettis and Jermaine T. Morgan, who allegedly was driving the car from which Pettis fired the gun, were the first in the county indicted under the statute.

Mr. Morgan, 20, of 2437 Highland, also was charged with felonious assault and attempted murder. Those charges were later dismissed at the request of prosecutors because they could not get witnesses subpoenaed in time for trial.

Pettis told Judge Christiansen that he shot into a group at the park, wounding Mr. Scott. He also admitted to being an active gang member since 1995.

Tom Matuszak, an assistant county prosecutor, warned during sentencing that others who participate in gang violence would suffer the same consequences.

“Pettis won't be the last person in this gang or other [gangs] we will go after,” he said.

Detective Andre Woodson, of the Toledo police gang task force unit, agreed.

“It puts them on notice that we won't tolerate their behavior. We will seek to prosecute if they choose to commit these crimes,” he said. “I think the law will be very effective, especially when gang members realize they can be held accountable for committing a crime while being a gang member.”

The jury had heard evidence from the prosecutor's first witness before Pettis pleaded.

The witness, a Toledo police detective, testified about gestures, clothing, and graffiti associated with gang activity.

Pettis took off his shirt to show the jurors gang-related tatoos on his back and arm, including tombstones with the names of dead gang members.

Mr. Matuszek said other evidence would have shown Pettis was involved in gang activity while he was in prison from 1995 to 2000 for aggravated assault.

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