Andre Bonner was raised by his maternal grandmother in south Macon along with his older sister after their mother was killed in 1992.
Bonner’s sister, 34-year-old Deneen Bonner, testified Thursday as the only witness for his defense.
Andre Bonner, 32, is charged with murder, aggravated assault, multiple gang offenses and a gun charge in the July 5, 2013, shooting death of 17-year-old Jamonni Bland outside the Zodiac Lounge in downtown Macon. He also is accused of assaulting a sheriff’s deputy while in jail awaiting trial. His trial began Monday in Bibb County Superior Court.
Bonner, who had the right to either testify or remain silent, elected not to take the witness stand.
Deneen Bonner spoke of how her grandmother worked two jobs to support her and Andre.
Although they both attended Southwest High School, Andre didn’t finish the ninth grade, she said.
Bonner said she left the Zodiac Lounge, located beneath the Riverview Ballroom at the corner of Walnut Street and Broadway, after her ex-boyfriend John Michael Hollingshed Jr. told her he was about to shoot up the place. While testifying Wednesday, Hollingshed, 29, admitted to firing shots that critically injured 23-year-old Deion Davis inside the club.
She said she met Hollingshed while he was in prison on a robbery charge, and they later dated. On that July night at the Zodiac two years ago, they weren’t together.
Bonner took Hollingshed’s statement to heart and left the club before shots were fired, she testified.
In the parking deck, she saw Bland and some other people standing at the club’s door. Then more gunfire erupted, Deneen Bonner testified. She said Andre and his friends hadn’t yet made it outside.
Deneen Bonner said she ran onto the street outside the parking deck and didn’t see who shot Bland.
Bonner admitted she’s been convicted of giving a false name to police. She said she was in a car with a friend when police asked for her name. Knowing she had an outstanding warrant, that she was on probation and that she had just had a baby, she lied.
When asked details about why she was on probation, she told a prosecutor Thursday, “I can’t remember. ... It was an old charge.”
Bonner testified she didn’t see her brother with a gun on the night of July 4, 2013, or early the following morning. She said she’s never seen him with a gun.
Melissa Sims-Stanley, a GBI medical examiner, testified earlier Thursday that Bland was shot four times -- once in the back, twice in the center of his upper chest and once in the knee.
The teenager would have died within a few minutes, she said.
Bland also had scrapes on his face consistent with a “terminal fall,” Sims-Stanley said.
‘MAFIA FOR LIFE’
Bibb County has between 50 and 100 hybrid gangs, sheriff’s Sgt. Cedric Penson testified Thursday afternoon.
He gave jurors a brief description of the Westside Mafia’s presence in Macon.
Penson, who has investigated gang crime since 2008, said Macon has factions of the Mafia gang on the east and west sides of town. Most of the suspects charged in the Zodiac Lounge case are alleged members of the Westside Mafia.
Members’s primary color is black and wear Florida Marlins spots garb. They also are known to wear the logo “M4L” that means “Mafia for Life,” he said.
“That’s pretty much their stamp,” Penson said.
Members also are known to use hand gestures that form the letter “M,” and members have been arrested for selling drugs in Macon.
Mafia members have been convicted of murder in the deaths of two members of the rival Crips gang.
In 2014, Cedric Newton, a Mafia member, was convicted in the 2010 fatal shooting of 33-year-old Udondra Hargrove, Penson said.
Bernard Bullard, another Mafia member, also was convicted last year in the 2013 fatal shooting of 18-year-old John Johnson III, he said.
Mafia and Crips members were involved in an altercation at the Hole Thing Pool Hall on Shurling Drive May 31, 2013, Penson said.
Bland was present during the incident, Penson said. He did not identify Bland as a gang member.
Testimony in Bonner’s trial concluded Thursday. Jurors likely will begin deliberations Friday.
Information from Telegraph archives was used in this report. To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398.