Witnesses describe what happened leading up to fatal shooting at party

By: Bria Brown | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published September 20, 2017

 Amer Mongogna enters Judge Joseph Boedeker’s courtroom at the 39th District Court for his preliminary examination Sept. 13.

Amer Mongogna enters Judge Joseph Boedeker’s courtroom at the 39th District Court for his preliminary examination Sept. 13.

Photo by Erin Sanchez

ROSEVILLE — After a lot of testimony Sept. 13 and 15, 39th District Court Judge Joseph Boedeker adjourned until Sept. 26 the preliminary examination for a 20-year-old Eastpointe resident accused in the shooting death of an 18-year-old Clinton Township resident at a graduation party in Roseville Aug. 6. 

The defendant in the case, Amer Mongogna, was arraigned Aug. 9 on five charges, including second-degree murder.

According to Roseville Deputy Police Chief Donald Glandon Aug. 9, Luke Filary, 18, who was “just attending as a guest of the homeowner,” was hit with one round and was pronounced dead a short time later after being transported to the hospital. Police had said that a group of three or four people were asked to leave the party, that they called others after they left, and then they returned as a bigger group with the intent to assault others.

Mongogna was not one of the original people asked to leave the home, according to police. Police said Mongogna had “no apparent connection” to the people at the Callahan Road home.

The first witness to take the stand Sept. 13 was 18-year-old David Underwood, who told the court that he attended the graduation party, roamed around and played games with his friends.

According to Underwood, there was a confrontation involving him and a group of guys in the backyard of the graduation party that resulted in him being in a fight and being dragged out of the party, and the girlfriend of one of his friends getting hit.

Underwood, his girlfriend and one of his friends’ girlfriends got into his car and left the party. They went to Underwood’s girlfriend’s home.

Underwood admitted that he was scared and sped away.

“I was scared because of what just happened. It all happened pretty fast. I was just nervous after all that happened. I’ve never had something like that happen to me before,” he said.

Underwood said that he went to his girlfriend’s home to “get out of the situation,” but one of his friends’ girlfriends called her boyfriend.

Underwood said the friend’s girlfriend was “screaming and crying” because she got hit during the confrontation.

Underwood said his girlfriend’s stepdad was one of the people at the house when they arrived.

Underwood said that at some point, he saw Mongogna come to Underwood’s girlfriend’s home with his friend.

Once his friend pulled up to his girlfriend’s home, they planned to go back to the graduation party.

“We were about to go back, because we were planning to go back and fight,” he said.

When asked by Macomb County Assistant Prosecutor Gordon Hosbein if he knew who they were going to fight, Underwood replied, “No.”

Hosbein asked if anyone had weapons at that point.

Underwood said he “heard there was a weapon,” but he never saw one.

He and his friends went back to the graduation party.

After pulling up to the graduation party, Underwood said they planned to fight, but he didn’t think anyone would use weapons.

During the fight in the driveway at the home, Underwood said his girlfriend called him to come back to her house. He hung up the phone, saw his friend punch somebody and heard a gunshot.   

“I saw (Mongogna) shooting and then I ran back to the car,” he said.

Underwood said he heard the first gunshot and saw Mongogna fire the second shot.

“At that point, none of us knew someone got shot,” said Underwood.

During Underwood’s testimony, Macomb County Assistant Prosecutor William Dailey said he was concerned with livestreaming of the preliminary exam from other media outlets.

“I was not aware at the beginning of the testimony that it was being livestreamed; we became aware of it at some point. We are concerned because it was addressed at the beginning of the case, and No. 2, the witnesses have indicated they have some significant concerns about being livestreamed,” said Dailey.

“To the media, I don’t know who is livestreaming, but it could have an affect on not only the witness who is testifying now, but other witnesses if they do know it’s being livestreamed,” he said.

“I’m going to order that there be no livestreaming from here on in of this preliminary examination,” he said.

The second witness called to the stand was 19-year-old Donavon Tocco.

Tocco said he received a phone call from his girlfriend saying that she had been hit at a party after trying to break up a fight.

Tocco said his reaction was to go to the graduation party once he got the call from his girlfriend.

“Whoever hit my girlfriend, I was going to fight them. The only description she gave me was that they’re all white, no hair color, no size, no nothing,” said Tocco.

Tocco said he also spoke with Underwood on the phone.

Tocco asked the people who he was with, while on the phone, if they wanted to go to the graduation party.

“I said specifically, I’m going to go there and I’m going to beat everyone up at the party,” he said.

Tocco said he asked Mongogna if he had a gun, and Mongogna said he did. Tocco said he asked Mongogna to grab the gun from his home to take it with them back to the graduation party.

After Mongogna got his gun, they went to Underwood’s girlfriend’s home.

According to Tocco, Underwood’s girlfriend’s stepdad told them to leave any weapons.

Tocco told the court what Mongogna said to the stepdad.

“(Mongogna) said he was registered to have a gun and that he would leave it in the car,” he said.  

Tocco said he and Mongogna had a discussion about the gun.

“I told him if you start shooting, the only way I want you to shoot is if I’m getting jumped, but shoot into the ground or into the air,” he said.

When Tocco arrived at the home of the party, he said he believed the owners of the home approached him respectfully, but he didn’t calm down.

Tocco said the first person who said something to him hit Tocco in the head with an object. Tocco then hit who he believed was one of the homeowners.

“I hit him and he went unconscious,” he said.

“As soon as that happened, it looked like the other homeowner, a female, got really aggressive,” he said.

According to Tocco, he wanted to “get around her and avoid that situation” because “she was a female.”

As far as gunshots, Tocco said he heard “about three to five gunshots.”

He thought Mongogna was shooting into the air because of the conversation they had prior.

He got into his car and left the incident.

The next morning, Tocco said he received a text saying someone died from the incident the night before.

According to Tocco, he thought it was the homeowner he punched.

The next day, Tocco and Mongogna discussed the prior night.

“When I asked him if he shot someone, he said, ‘There’s no way I did. I only shot toward the house.’ He said, ‘There was a woman with orange hair; I shot toward her feet for her to back up and get away,’” said Tocco.

Tocco said Mongogna ran away after shooting toward the woman’s feet, but his flip-flop fell off.

“He told me once he got the flip-flop, he started shooting again,” said Tocco.

The next witness on the stand, 19-year-old Zackary Geiniski, said Mongogna was a “good friend” of his whom he’d known since the sixth grade.   

Geiniski said Mongogna called him the day after the party.

“He said, ‘I don’t know what I did. I kind of need your help,’” said Geiniski.

Geiniski said he didn’t know what happened the night before, but he used his brother’s truck to pick up Mongogna.

According to Geiniski, he saw on Twitter that someone tweeted about having a flesh wound from the graduation party.

He said he knew Mongogna owned a gun and that his friends were in an incident the night before.

Geiniski said he didn’t have a problem with helping Mongogna because he “didn’t think anything of it.”

Geiniski told the court he helped Mongogna hide the gun in Geiniski’s next-door neighbor’s garage.

He said he was eventually concerned once he found out someone died.

Prior to telling investigators where the gun was, he led them in a different direction. Later, once he felt “comfortable” with police, he told them the correct location of the gun.

The last witness of the day was 19-year-old Joseph Agosta.

Agosta said that on the way to the graduation party, he noticed the gun on Mongogna’s hip.

Agosta told the court that once he arrived at the graduation with the other guys, “everyone was fighting.”

He remembered seeing Tocco punching someone, who fell to the ground, and someone who “looked like a mom” yelling and screaming.

Agosta said the woman was running and “charged at (Mongogna),” and he admitted he was “scared of the whole situation.”

Agosta testified that he saw Mongogna pull out his gun before shooting it.

“I heard about six or seven shots,” he said. “He was pointing (the gun) toward the backyard,” said Agosta.

He said the incident happened “pretty quick,” and he remembers leaving in a car.

The next morning, he found out someone was shot, but he didn’t know who shot the person.

Testimony lasted for 5 1/2 hours.

Ashley Gemelli, 19, was the first witness to testify Sept. 15.

Gemelli said she was at home and picked up her friend, Alexis Leonard, 18, to hang out.

They made their way to Underwood’s girlfriend’s home, where she said she saw boys in the driveway in the front yard of the home.

Gemelli said she saw Mongogna in the front yard, and when it was time to leave to go to the graduation party, Mongogna got into Gemelli’s car.

At the house, Gemelli said, Tocco pulled into the driveway, but she stayed on the street.

During the incident, she said she kept her ignition on and her car was in the reverse gear.

Gemelli said she saw the fight happening, and Mongogna got out of the car.

Gemelli said she also saw an older woman “trying to attack” Mongogna “aggressively,” and she saw Mongogna point the gun next to her and fire the shot.

When asked if she knew Mongogna had a gun, Gemelli said no.

Gemelli said the gun was pointed “more toward the ground” but not at the woman who was coming toward Mongogna — more toward the woman’s side.

According to Gemelli, Mongogna “didn’t say anything about shooting anyone.”

The next day, around noon, Gemelli said, she saw Mongogna and he told her, “You drove me. You might be in trouble too.” Gemelli said the statement from Mongogna scared her and she walked away.

Gemelli said that on the night of the incident, she was “afraid” because she “had a bad feeling.”

Leonard said that on the day of the incident she didn’t have anything planned and wanted to hang out with Gemelli.

According to Leonard, Gemelli received a call about Underwood and Tocco’s girlfriend getting “jumped” at a graduation party.

Once at Underwood’s girlfriend’s home, she, Mongogna, another boy and Gemelli followed Tocco to the graduation party.

To Leonard’s understanding, “They were going back to fight.”

At the graduation party home, Leonard said, she stayed in the car and was using Twitter.

According to Leonard, she saw a woman yelling at Mongogna.

She looked at her phone and then heard shots.

According to Leonard, she heard a shot while looking at her phone and when she looked up, she “saw the gun go off.”

After the second shot, Leonard said, Gemelli drove off, but Leonard heard another shot while driving away.

Adrian Lange testified that she was at the graduation party and had consumed alcohol at the party. She remembered an initial fight, a man involved in the fight leaving, and then two cars pulling up later.

According to Lange, she was invited to the graduation party by her uncle, who the court later found out had been punched, but she didn’t see who punched him.

Lange testified that she chased someone down the driveway under the pine trees, but “everything was dark.”

She remembered saying to the shooter before he fired three times, “I’m not afraid to die.”

Lange made the court aware that she wouldn’t be able to identify the shooter.

The examination is scheduled to continue at 9:30 a.m. Sept. 26.