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Store manager is suspected target of Fashion Square shooting

The shooting in the parking lot of Fashion Square mall that left two people and a dog injured seems to have targeted a Belk department store manager moments after four young men were escorted outside.

The suspect, 19-year-old Jalontae Truriel Percer, appeared in Albemarle General District Court via jail video Monday morning to get a lawyer.

"Would I be able to get bond today?" asked Percer.

"Call us this afternoon," replied Jonathon Ray Packard of the Office of the Public Defender.

Charged with two firearm offenses and two counts of malicious wounding, Percer won’t likely get out of jail before trial, according to longtime criminal lawyer David Heilberg.

"It will be hard for the young man to get bail," Heilberg told The Daily Progress.

Despite the presumption of innocence that runs through the American justice system, Heilberg said that the push for safety in a community riven by gun violence has altered the calculus on pretrial release.

"With so many firearms in the community, judges are denying bail for almost everyone who does something serious with a firearm," said Heilberg. "Even misdemeanor brandishing is enough."

Charging documents indicate that Percer, his brother Richard Payne Jr. and two other men got involved in what a witness described as a "commotion" inside the Fashion Square Belk on Sept. 13. Their interaction with store manager Jerome Henry, who would become one of the two shooting victims, was also allegedly captured on audio-enabled video footage.

"A store employee can be heard explaining that he cannot sell the individuals anything due to them not being 21 years old," according to the report by Mark Belew, a detective with the Albemarle County Police Department.

Shortly after a security guard escorted the group outside the store, shots rang out toward the manager and another man, Eliazar Prieto, who were inside a car, and both received multiple gunshot wounds, according to Belew’s report, which noted that officers, responding at 7:03 p.m., found the vehicle riddled with bullet holes and eight shell casings on the ground nearby.

"Both shooting victims were treated at the University of Virginia Medical Center and have been released from the hospital," Albemarle County police said in statement. "A dog also received veterinarian care for injuries it received during the shooting and has since been released."

Despite his wounds, the manager was able to direct the police to a Blink video system inside the store, according to the detective’s report. That footage, cross-checked with social media postings, led to the identification of the suspect, the report said.

The night after the shooting, shortly before 11 p.m., Albemarle officers converged on a residence in the Brookdale Apartments, an Albemarle County complex off Old Lynchburg Road. There, officers confiscated a Taurus 9mm handgun along with a plastic silencer, according a search warrant inventory.

Virginia court records show no prior offenses by Percer, who has been held since his Sept. 14 arrest at the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail. He will likely stay there for a while, according to Heilberg.

"If the word firearm is uttered or part of the charge in some way, the judges are highly reluctant to let people out," said Heilberg. "It’s about the only way they have to deter firearms at this point."

According to a Daily Progress tally, the past 12 months appear to be the most violent in recent memory, with 17 firearm deaths and 28 firearm injuries. The count includes incidents in both Charlottesville and Albemarle but does not include stabbings or gun-involved suicides or accidents.

Under state law, a conviction on a single malicious wounding charge can bring a sentence of five to 20 years, while each firearms charge carries a mandatory minimum of three years.

Percer’s preliminary hearing is slated for Nov. 2. He has an attorney status hearing slated for Oct. 19. He has not yet been given an opportunity to enter a plea to the charges.


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