Brooklyn man who was cleared in the murder of 14-year-old girl, indicted for attempted murder of teen in Middle Village last July: DA

The early morning shooting in Middle Village that left one man dead and another man injured on July 23, 2023.
Photo by Lloyd Mitchell

A Brooklyn man who had a murder conviction vacated by the Queens District Attorney’s Office in November 2022 was indicted in connection to a fatal shooting in Middle Village.

Shamel Capers, 24, of Herzl Street, was arraigned Tuesday in Queens Supreme Court on an indictment charging him with attempted murder and Dante Hunter, 25, of Mott Avenue in Far Rockaway, was arraigned Monday on an indictment charging with murder and other crimes in the fatal shooting of 19-year-old Joshua Taylor in Middle Village last July.

Capers was exonerated in November 2022 after the DA’s Conviction Integrity Unit reinvestigated the fatal shooting of D’aja Robinson, a 14-year-old honors student who was struck by a stray shot as she sat on board an MTA bus in Jamaica on May 18, 2013. Capers, who was 15 at the time of the shooting, was released after being incarcerated for more than eight years on the murder charge after the CIU reviewed dozens of interviews with witnesses and a testimony by a key witness was recanted.

On Tuesday morning, Capers was taken into custody in Hackensack, New Jersey and was extradited back to Queens, where he was arraigned later in the day. Evidence uncovered by detectives from the 104th Precinct in Ridgewood and Queens Borough North investigating the fatal shooting of the teenager in Middle Village indicated that the round that struck the victim was fired by Hunter, according to the DA’s office.

Hunter was arraigned on a 7-count indictment charging him with murder, weapons charges and reckless endangerment.

“Gun violence has caused immense tragedy in our neighborhoods, steering too many of our young people toward choices that negatively impact the rest of their lives,” Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz said. “It is a challenge that we continue to address.”

According to the charges, at around 3:17 a.m. on July 23, 2023, Joshua Taylor of Brooklyn was with several other people in front of a hookah lounge at 79-28 Metropolitan Avenue. A friend of Taylor’s threw a drink he was holding in the direction of Capers and his friend, who had just exited a convenience store nearby. A verbal dispute followed between the two groups, with Hunter joining Capers.

Several minutes later, the argument escalated into a four-way shootout, with Hunter pulling out his firearm before the others. Taylor was caught in the crossfire and struck by a single round in his chest. EMS responded to the crime scene and rushed Taylor to Elmhurst Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

More than two dozen 9 mm shell casings were recovered at the scene and an investigation was launched into the incident. Capers was subsequently identified using surveillance footage from nearby locations and financial records for a credit and debit card he used immediately before the incident. Hunter was already in custody on a parole warrant at the time of the indictment.

“Following a painstaking process of evidence gathering, we have secured an indictment on very serious charges against both defendants for the early morning shootout that left one person dead,” Katz said. “We will continue to dedicate all resources at our disposal to combat the scourge of gun violence in this borough.”

Hunter faces up to 25 years to life in prison and Capers faces up to 25 years in prison. Queens Supreme Court Justice Michael Aloise ordered them held without bail with a return date of June 18.

Hours before Capers became front-page fodder in the city’s tabloid newspapers, his defense attorneys Elizabeth Geddes and Nadia Shihata cautioned the media against a rush to judgment in his case.

“Numerous media outlets have falsely reported that our client, Shamel Capers, has been charged with murder. He is not charged with murder, though he has been charged with other crimes related to a shooting last July,” they said. “Our client has been wrongfully convicted and then fully exonerated before, after unjustly spending over eight years in prison for a crime he did not commit.”

The lawyers had more to say.

“His own tragic past should strongly caution against any rush to judgment or reporting of false information in this case. Shamel has pled not guilty to the current charges, is presumed innocent, and intends to vigorously defend himself in a court of law,” they said. “He is entitled to a fair trial before a jury of his peers, untainted by false information recklessly published by the media.”