An Omaha man was acquitted Wednesday in the July 2020 shooting death of a man on a mini motorized dirt bike in northeast Omaha.
A jury deliberated nearly 10 hours before finding Daquandre Perry, 22, not guilty of first-degree murder in the July 26, 2020, shooting death of John Parks Jr.
Prosecutors had charged Perry with first-degree murder after several videos showed a black Nissan chasing Parks and crashing into his dirt bike before seven shots rang out. Videos also showed Perry and another man get out of the Nissan about 20 minutes later at an apartment complex four blocks away.
However, Perry’s attorneys, Renee Mathias and Mallory Hughes, had pointed out several factors that they said would cause jurors to hesitate to find him guilty. Among them: Prosecutors had no murder weapon and they had no witnesses who were able to identify the driver or passenger or even provide a license plate of the Nissan.
And though Perry’s DNA was on the driver’s side of the car that prosecutors suspected of hitting Parks, so was the DNA of three other people.
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The case had stunned neighbors near 53rd and Boyd Streets because of the brazen way it occurred. A chase and gunshots in the broad daylight of a summer Sunday afternoon.
According to court accounts:
Shortly after 2 p.m. July 26, 2020, Parks and a friend were riding their dirt bikes south on 53rd Street.
As the 20-year-olds zoomed down the street, a black Nissan Maxima turned a corner and bore down on them. The Maxima, with two people inside, eventually crashed into Parks’ bike.
Parks zipped away, but the Nissan kept pace until, finally, Parks ditched the bike and tried to run. Seven shots came from the Nissan. One hit Parks in the neck. Running for his life, Parks scaled a fence before collapsing and dying in a backyard.
Soon after, an Omaha police officer relayed to homicide detectives that he had pulled over Perry eight days before; he had been driving a black Nissan Maxima.
Investigators then tracked down the Nissan, which was registered to a girlfriend of Perry’s. The Nissan had front-end damage that prosecutor Amy Jacobsen said was consistent with a crash with the dirt bike. Jacobsen said several surveillance cameras showed Perry and the car at the nearby apartments and at his workplace — proving that he often drove the car.
But that wasn’t enough to overcome the fact that no one could identify either the driver or the passenger of the Nissan that day.
Prosecutors had charged Perry under an accomplice theory — that he may or may not have been the shooter but was guilty because he was helping the passenger run down and gun down Parks. The passenger has not been charged; prosecutors say they don’t have enough evidence to try him for the shooting.
Law enforcement authorities think the shooting was gang-related — and it prompted a double slaying a few days later.
A few days after his son’s death, John Parks Sr. visited Omaha from his home state of Texas. While here, prosecutors say, he thought that a couple had footage of his son’s death on their phone. Prosecutors allege the elder Parks killed Michael Harbour, 35, and Nicole Hatten, 36, in a mistaken rage over that footage — which actually was a viral video of a killing in Mexico. The elder Parks is awaiting trial on two counts of first-degree murder.
Perry’s trial took a turn last week when a female friend attended and used her cellphone to snap a photo of Perry. The man who police said was the passenger in the Nissan then posted that photo to his Facebook page with encouragement to Perry to stay strong, prosecutors said.
That prompted Douglas County District Judge Duane Dougherty to close the courtroom to anyone but attorneys, jurors and witnesses — and send the public to a satellite room to watch a feed of the trial.
The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that trials are public affairs and that courtrooms are open.
Paul Goodsell, editor-in-chief of The World-Herald, said the newspaper is sending a letter to the presiding judge protesting Dougherty’s closure. Goodsell said it is essential that courtrooms remain open — any alleged violation of court rules should be dealt with individually, not by barring everyone.
It is the third time Dougherty has barred the public from his courtroom. During a murder trial last year, he made visitors watch from a satellite room, citing COVID concerns. Several years ago, he had deputies lock his courtroom door during an inquiry into whether jurors were at an impasse in the case of an activist accused of assaulting an officer. Such inquiries also are a matter of public record.