Man charged in January 2013 shootings rescheduled for trial; co-defendant still in jail three years later

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A police camera still shows January’s standoff suspect as he runs from police. Photo provided by the Wilmington Police Department.
A police camera still shows the suspect in a January 2013 standoff with police, as he runs from the scene of a traffic stop. Photo provided by the Wilmington Police Department.

The trial in the case of a Bladen County man charged in connection with two January 2013 shootings – one involving two Wilmington police officers and another that injured a man just weeks before – has been continued until April. His co-defendant in the case, who has been jailed for more than three years, was denied pre-trial release due to the upcoming April trial during a bond hearing last week.

The State’s case against 30-year-old Jermaine Cordova is scheduled for trial in New Hanover County Superior Court on April 25, according to Assistant District Attorney Connie Jordan. The case was marked on the state’s trial calendar last week, but Superior Court Judge Phyllis Gorham granted a defense motion to continue the case.

Cordova faces several felony charges, including three counts of assault with a deadly weapon on a government official, in connection with an incident that led to an exchange of gunfire with police and a hourslong standoff on Barclay Hills Drive in Wilmington on Jan. 29, 2013.

The incident began when officers with the Wilmington Police Department were trying to find Cordova’s co-defendant in the case – 27-year-old Christopher Williams – to serve him with attempted murder warrants in connection with a shooting that injured a man on Jan. 2, 2013.

The officers found Williams in the area of Princess Place Drive and watched him get into Cordova’s vehicle, Jordan said. Officers attempted to stop the vehicle but before they could, Williams jumped out and ran from police, Jordan said, while Cordova reportedly stopped the vehicle and remained inside.

As one officer ran after Williams, the other approached Cordova, who alleged pulled out a gun and fired shots as he ran from police, Jordan said. Cordova was shot in the leg during the exchange, and ran to a home on Barclay Hills Drive, where he barricaded himself in a shed. No officers were injured by gunfire.

Police were at the scene for several hours negotiating with Cordova, who reportedly held a gun to his head, Jordan said. Cordova surrendered to police and was then taken to New Hanover Regional Medical Center for treatment of the gunshot wound. Williams was taken into custody later that night.

The two co-defendants faced felony charges in connection with the late January incident. Through further investigations by the Wilmington Police Department, both Williams and Cordova were also charged in a late night shooting on Jan. 2, 2013, Jordan said.

Jermaine Cordova
Jermaine Cordova

The victim, who was 28, was contacted by a stripper offering her services in an alleged ploy by the defendants to lure the victim to an apartment off Frog Pond Place in Wilmington, Jordan said. When the victim showed up at the apartment, prosecutors allege Williams and Cordova robbed him, then shot him multiple times.

“He was shot five times, once in each leg, two in the chest and one time in the back. Incredibly serious injuries, but he miraculously survived that shooting,” Jordan said.

Cordova faces several charges in connection with each incident in New Hanover County Superior Court, including three counts of assault on a law enforcement officer, possession of a firearm by a felon, three counts of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill, attempted first-degree murder and robbery with a dangerous weapon, according to court records. He was recently indicted on additional charges of possession of a firearm by a felon and possession of a stolen firearm.

The state’s pursuit of a trial in Cordova’s case follows a years-long federal court process on a firearms charge in the Jan. 29, 2013 incident.

On Aug. 21, 2013, Cordova was indicted by a federal grand jury on charge of possession of a firearm and ammunition by a felon. He pleaded guilty to that charge in March 2014 and was later sentenced to 35 years in federal prison in the case as an armed career criminal.

Then in June 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a residual clause in the armed career criminal law was unconstitutional. Cordova’s case was affected by the outcome of the ruling in that one of his previous felony convictions no longer qualified him as an armed career criminal, according to U.S. Attorney’s Office Spokesman Don Connelly.

Cordova’s 35-year federal sentence was vacated and the case was remanded for resentencing in U.S. District Court. Cordova was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison on a charge of possession of a firearm and ammunition by a felon on Feb. 26.

Meanwhile, his co-defendant has been in custody at the New Hanover County Jail awaiting trial on his charges since January 2013. Last Thursday, Williams’ attorney Eric Howland asked the court to release his client from jail under conditions that would meet the nature of his charges, including electronic monitoring and 24-hour house arrest.

Williams is charged with attempted first-degree murder, robbery with a dangerous weapon, possession of a stolen firearm, resisting a public officer and assault inflicting serious bodily injury, according to court records.

“Mr. Williams is just getting dragged along by something that is out of his control at this point,” Howland said. “The reason this is tied to the Cordova case…he is the co-defendant in the Cordova case and the state had moved to join those matters for trial. There is an issue on whether testimony will be given in that trial…so it’s a strange situation that gets us to over three years in jail.”

According to jail records, Williams’ bail is set at $551,000 secured. During his bond hearing, the judge denied a change in his bond but agreed to revisit that decision if Cordova’s trial is delayed again.

Christopher Williams
Christopher Williams

The state said it is ready to go to trial in April and is prepared with about 40 witnesses, experts and evidence, including more than 150 photographs in this case, Jordan said during Williams’ bond hearing last week.

“I was hoping to go to trial…I was planning on going to trial this week. I can say, I’ll be ready to go,” Jordan said. “And I hate it for Mr. Williams as well.”

With Cordova now in the custody of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Jordan said she hopes to speak with U.S. Marshals to keep him at the New Hanover County Jail until his April trial. However, if he is moved outside of the state to begin serving his federal sentence, the state will have to seek finances to fly him back for trial, she added. Attorney William Boney is representing Cordova in the case.