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Prosecutor: Teenage Gang Member Fatally Shot Student After Luring Him to Robbery Via Craigslist Ad

Three teens are accused of killing a college student.

Updated at 1:18 p.m.

A gang member shot a college student to death after luring him to a late-night robbery in Paradise Hills by advertising a $600 MacBook Pro computer for sale on Craigslist, a prosecutor alleged Monday.

Rashon Abernathy, 18, is charged with friends Seandell Jones, 19, and 18- year-old Shaquille Jordan, in the May 11, 2011, robbery and murder of 18-year- old Garrett Berki, a 2010 graduate of La Jolla High School.

Abernathy is also charged with stealing $600 from a Navy man who responded to a Craigslist ad to buy a similar computer on May 5, 2011, in Paradise Hills.

Deputy District Attorney Kristian Trocha told jurors that Abernathy used fake names to advertise the computers on Craigslist, inviting the victims to meet him in areas several blocks from his home.

Once they arrived, Abernathy would act nervous and tell them he'd been robbed before, saying "Let me see the money," Trocha said in his opening statement.

The prosecutor said Berki went to Paradise Hills about 10 p.m. with his girlfriend to buy the Apple computer.

Abernathy -- wearing a black backpack with what looked like a computer inside -- wanted to see the money but Berki wanted to see the computer, Trocha said.

Berki's girlfriend had begun to count out the money when Jones pointed a gun at the couple saying, "Let him (Abernathy) count it," according to Trocha.

The defendants grabbed the money and the victims' cell phones and got into a stolen car driven by Jordan, the prosecutor said.

Berki and his girlfriend were headed to report the theft when he spotted the defendants' car and gave chase on state Route 54, Trocha said. The cars exited the freeway several miles away and ended up front-to-front in a cul-de- sac.

Abernathy allegedly fired one shot through the windshield of the victims' car, striking Berki in the shoulder. He died about 45 minutes later.

After the shooting, laughter was heard from the defendants' car and someone said "What's up now, bitches," according to Trocha.

Jordan drove off but crashed the car in a nearby cul-de-sac and the defendants ran, only to be arrested a short time later, Trocha said.

A .45-caliber semiautomatic weapon matching the gun used in the shooting was found buried in the dirt a couple days after the killing, Trocha said.

"This was a set-up from the get-go," the prosecutor said.

Abernathy's attorney, Kathleen Coyne, said her client admits the robberies but didn't commit murder.

Coyne said Abernathy wasn't a gangster but was demoralized because he couldn't find a job.

"It tells you why he did what he did," Coyne said.

All three defendants -- who were 17 at the time -- thought the robbery was over when Berki suddenly gave chase and scared the boys, Coyne said.

"Judgment is being washed away in the flood of adrenaline," the attorney said.

When the boys' car was boxed in by Berki, Abernathy picked up a gun in the back seat and pointed it out the window, Coyne said.

She said Jordan suddenly braked, causing an "unintentional firing" of the gun.

"He (Abernathy) didn't know the gun was loaded," Coyne said.

Jones' attorney, Wil Rumble, did not dispute that the robberies happened but said his client was not guilty of murder.

Rumble said Berki, "in a terrible twist of fate," was shot and killed when he decided to give chase after the robbery was over.

"Mr. Jones did nothing to assist the unfortunate shooting by Mr. Abernathy," Rumble told the jury.

Zaki Zehawi, the attorney for Jordan, said his client "did everything he could to end the situation" in the cul-de-sac.

Abernathy faces up to 60 years to life in prison if convicted. Jordan and Jones could get 50 years to life.

-City News Service

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