Trial begins for suspect in shooting death at graduation party

By: Brendan Losinski | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published May 3, 2019

 Amer Mongogna will face a jury’s judgement in the 2017 death of 18-year-old Luke Filary. Filary was shot during a confrontation at a graduation party in which Mongogna pulled out a gun and fired it several times.

Amer Mongogna will face a jury’s judgement in the 2017 death of 18-year-old Luke Filary. Filary was shot during a confrontation at a graduation party in which Mongogna pulled out a gun and fired it several times.

Photo by Deb Jacques

 Defense Attorney Shawn Smith presents his opening statements in the trial of his client, Amer Mongogna, as the jury portion of the trial begins April 30.

Defense Attorney Shawn Smith presents his opening statements in the trial of his client, Amer Mongogna, as the jury portion of the trial begins April 30.

Photo by Deb Jacques

 Assistant Prosecutor Philip Jacques addresses the jury during the murder trial of defendant Amer Mongogna in 16th Circuit Court.

Assistant Prosecutor Philip Jacques addresses the jury during the murder trial of defendant Amer Mongogna in 16th Circuit Court.

Photo by Deb Jacques

Advertisement

MOUNT CLEMENS — The jury trial of 21-year-old Amer Mongogna began April 30 in the 16th Circuit Court relating to the shooting death of Luke Filary, 18, at a graduation party in Roseville in 2017.

Mongogna faces five charges: second-degree murder, assault with intent to murder, carrying a concealed weapon and two counts of possessing a firearm during the commission of a felony.

“The prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt for count one, second-degree murder, first, that the defendant caused the death of Luke Filary — that is that Luke Filary died as a result of the defendant firing a gun,” said Judge Carl Marlinga. “Second, that the defendant had one of these three states of mind: He intended to kill or he intended to do great bodily harm to Adrian Lange, or he knowingly created a very high risk of death or great bodily harm knowing that death or such harm would be the likely result from his actions.”

The incident took place on Aug. 6, 2017, at a home on Callahan Road in Roseville. Earlier in the day, during a graduation party at the house, police said, a fight broke out between some of the partygoers.

“During the night, (party attendee David Underwood) saw someone talking to his girlfriend,” Macomb County Assistant Prosecutor Philip Jacques said. “This started a confrontation. … (Homeowner Gregory Keys) kicked David, Mackenzie (Tavernier) and Emily (Russo) out. They were all pretty worked up at that point. … When they left, David took off down the street and Emily made a phone call at that point, and called her ex-boyfriend, Donovan Tocco.”

Tocco was in a car coming from another graduation party with the defendant and another friend at the time.

“Emily told Donovan that she just got beat up and his response was he was on his way,” Jacques said. “He turned to the defendant and said, ‘I’m going to fight.’ … He stopped at the defendant’s house, and the reason he stopped at the defendant’s house was so (Mongogna) could get his gun. … Donovan told him, ‘Listen man: If I’m getting jumped, shoot at the ground or shoot up in the air.’ The defendant said, ‘I got you, bro.’”

The prosecution went on to say that several people left from Tavernier’s house in multiple cars, with Tocco in one car, which arrived first, and Mongogna in the one that arrived second. 

“Even before the fight, the only person  hyped up is Donovan. … Amer doesn’t even get in the same car as Donovan; he’s not feeling the same angst,” said defense attorney Shawn Smith. “There is a mass of people waiting for them, and they were all warned (Tocco, Mongogna and the others) were coming and they are all drunk.”

At the graduation party, Tocco, according to the prosecution, began yelling and cursing in the driveway of the home. James Lange and Adrian Lange approached the group and attempted to convince them to leave. Tocco then hit James Lange in the face, according to the prosecution. 

“(Party attendees) Connor Casey and Luke Filary came out of the tent, and as they come out, they see James on the ground, and they immediately start fighting Donovan next to (a nearby) Corvette,” said Jacques. “That’s when the first gunshot goes off. … Connor took off around the front of the Corvette to try and take cover. Donovan didn’t stop fighting. … He continued to fight with Luke Filary and then he heard more gunshots. Then everyone stopped fighting and scattered.”

While there was a pause between the first gunshot and the subsequent shots, there was some discrepancy as to how much time passed. When the scene cleared, according to the prosecution, Filary approached others at the party saying he had been shot. He was rushed to the hospital, where he later died.

The prosecution said Mongogna found out several hours later that someone had been shot at the party, to which he reacted callously. The prosecution also said he coordinated with a friend to hide the weapon and planned to go into hiding.

Both sides agree that Adrian Lange approached Mongogna during the lethal confrontation, which is when Mongogna removed the pistol from his waistband. The prosecution said he shouted, “I’m going to blow your (expletive) brains out.” The defense said that Mongogna was trying to defend himself and scare Adrian Lange away.

“All of a sudden, there is this … crazy, orange-haired lady running forward screaming, ‘I’m not afraid to die!’” said Smith. “She is coming right at Amer. He is backpedaling and doesn’t know what to do, and he backpedals all the way into the woods, and the gun goes off.”

The defense said the whole situation was a tragic series of bad decisions by multiple parties that resulted in an unintended death.

“This was a tragedy,” said Smith. “This was a series of dominoes all falling one after another. If one or two of those dominoes had been removed, no one would have died.”

The Macomb County Medical Examiner’s Office stated that Filary died from a bullet to the chest, although the determination of the type of bullet was inconclusive — something Smith pointed out during his opening statements.

The trial is expected by the court to go on for several weeks while several witnesses and experts are called, including those involved in both the earlier confrontation and the confrontation in which Filary was shot.

“High school graduation parties are supposed to be a celebration. Family members and friends come together to celebrate someone who has achieved that goal of graduating high school and moving on to the next stage of their life,” said Jacques. “There shouldn’t be guns out at a celebration like this; no one should die.”

Advertisement