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Capeless Terms Killing "Cold-Blooded," "Vicious"By Susan Bush
12:00AM / Wednesday, July 26, 2006
North Adams - An early July 25 morning shooting that killed 31-year -old Bronx, N.Y. resident Kijona Osmond was termed "vicious," "cold-blooded," and may have been gang-related, according to Berkshire County District Attorney David F. Capeless.
Smith Claiming Self-defense
Capeless described witness accounts of the Secor Street shooting allegedly at the hands of 27-year old James Smith during Smith's July 26 Northern Berkshire District Court arraignment. Smith has been charged with one count of murder and one count of illegal possession of a handgun. According to Capeless, Smith is claiming that the shooting was done in self-defense.It is believed that Smith is from the Brooklyn, N.Y. area.
Smith is being held without bail at the Berkshire County House of Correction. The case was continued to Aug. 30 for a pre-trial conference.
Smith was brought to the courthouse by officers of the Berkshire County Sheriff's Department. He was kept out of the courtroom and was arraigned from a small room equipped with a large glass window and microphones.
Smith is a short, slim-built black male who has been known by the nickname "Half-pint." During the arraignment, he was flanked by court officers. He remained standing and facing those in the courtroom during the arraignment.
Judge Michael J. Ripps presided over the arraignment.
Possible Gang Ties
Capeless termed Smith a flight risk and cited a past criminal record that includes convictions in Florida. Police could find no valid local address for Smith after his capture, Capeless said.
Witnesses interviewed by police investigators have said that Smith and Osmond were members of rival gangs, Capeless said during the arraignment.
When asked after the arraignment concluded to identify the gangs, Capeless declined, and said "I'm not going to get into that right now."
City police Director Michael Cozzaglio said during a subsequent interview that area gang activity is being investigated. He declined to identify any specific gangs that may be operating in the area because of ongoing investigations.
During the arraignment, Capeless described the shooting.
Victim Shot Twice
According to a witness account, Smith allegedly arrived at a Secor Street residence armed with the weapon visible, Capeless said.
Smith allegedly shot Osmond twice, with one shot allegedly being fired into the back of Osmond's head, Capeless said. After shooting Osmond, Smith then allegedly rifled through the clothing Osmond was wearing in search of money and drugs, Capeless said.
Additional witnesses have said that Smith fled the scene and went to another residence, where he allegedly told an individual that he'd shot someone. When police arrested Smith at 318 Union St. during the late July 25 morning, he was in possession of a gun, Capeless said.
Smith's Attorney Objects
Smith's court-appointed attorney Greg Schubert of Northampton arrived at court accompanied by a private investigator. Schubert told Ripps that he had already agreed to forgo a bail request and objected to Capeless' characterizations of Smith and the crime as possibly tainting a jury pool.
After police concluded a July 25 crime scene investigation, Capeless allowed the scene "released," meaning the apartment occupant was able to go back to the residence without restrictions. Schubert told Ripps he was "amazed" that a crime scene had been released so quickly after the crime was committed and before he could see the room as it appeared right after the shooting.
"I am somewhat amazed that I arrive here after a day and a half and find a crime scene released," Schubert said. "It has been turned back in an inappropriate way, in my opinion."
Schubert asked that he and/or the private investigator be given access to the scene to photograph the area and take dimension measurements. He also asked that he be able to collect anything found that could be deemed relevant to the case. Capeless told Ripps that Schubert was apparently making requests that required a search warrant, and if that were the case, the requests should be made as a written motion.
After considerable discussion, Capeless and Schubert agreed that Schubert or the investigator would be allowed to visit the scene with a police officer of Capeless' choosing and within parameters to be determined by Ripps in a written order.
A July 26 autopsy concluded that Osmond died of gun shot wounds. The autopsy was performed in Holyoke by Chief Associate medical Examiner Loren Mednick. According to autopsy findings, Osmond was shot once in the front of the neck and once in the back of the head.
Susan Bush may be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 802-823-9367.