Durham rapper 'Lil Tony' dragged from court during sentencing for 9-year-old's murder

A North Carolina rapper convicted in a gang-related killing of a 9-year-old boy was dragged out of a federal courtroom Tuesday by U.S. Marshals as he cursed at a prosecutor and said he didn't do it.

"That (expletive) don't know what the (expletive) she is talking about," shouted Antonio "Lil Tony" Davenport, in yellow jail scrubs, handcuffed and shackled, as officers pulled him out of the U.S. Middle District courtroom in Greensboro.

As Davenport started his outburst, his mother yelled for him to stop and his grandmother yelled she knew he didn't do it.

Meanwhile, emotions among the family members of Z'Yon Person, the 9-year-old Davenport was convicted of killing, were already high during the intense sentencing hearing. Discussions by the judge and others centered on what sentence would be appropriate for Davenport, but also on how to save Durham from a culture of violence.

"It's eating Durham alive," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Joanna McFadden.

In July a jury found Davenport, 27, guilty of three federal murder, gun and racketeering charges related to the killing of Z'Yon in August 2019.

He faces two life sentences and plus another 10 years or more.

In March, Davenport's two co-defendants pleaded guilty to similar charges under deals with prosecutors. Derrick Lamont Dixon, 27, and Dival Magwood, 24, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to engage in acts of racketeering and commission of a violent crime in aid of racketeering.

Prosecutors argued Davenport, Dixon and Magwood were members of the Braggtown-based Northside Eight Trey Gangster Crips.

The men opened fire on an SUV at the intersection of Leon and North Duke streets on Aug. 18, 2019, thinking it was occupied by the rival gang members who had jumped Davenport days earlier at The Streets at Southpoint mall.

Instead of gang rivals, the SUV was driven by Danyell Ragland who was taking her three children, along with her niece and nephew to Pelican's Snoballs on the hot August evening.

Five bullets hit the SUV, and two went in the passenger side back-seat window.

One bullet pierced Ragland's then 8-year-old son's arm.

Another went straight through Z'Yon's forehead. He died the next morning. The bullet that killed Z'Yon came from Dixon's gun, according to court testimony.

Davenport was driving his maroon Honda Accord. Magwood was in the front seat, and Dixon was in the back. Magwood testified during Davenport's trial that Davenport, who was driving, and Dixon, who was in the backseat, shot up the SUV. Magwood would have, he said, but he couldn't get a good shot in the front passenger side seat.

On Tuesday, prosecutors, law enforcement, families members and others involved in the case filed into the federal courtroom for a 9:30 a.m. hearing.

Initially all three defendants were in the room as Z'Yon's family described the despair they live with as they try to navigate life without the boy who loved to give hugs, play football and hang out with his cousin and siblings.

"You also took a piece of me," said Z'Yon's sister, who was referred to by initials during the hearing since she is a minor.

After Z'Yon's mother and aunt testified, Judge William Olsteen asked them what actions he could take that could stop little boys joining gangs and picking up guns.

"I am not going to let Z'Yon Person die in vain," Olsteen said.

Their answers centered on Davenport remaining in prison for the rest of his life. But Olsteen wanted more, he said.

"How do I fashion a sentence that protects these fine people in the community?" he said.

After Z'Yon's family's testimony, Dixon and Magwood left the room for Davenport's sentencing hearing.

Dixon is scheduled to be sentenced later Tuesday. Magwood is scheduled to be sentenced Wednesday morning.

Davenport's outburst came as a prosecutor outlined a pattern of recklessness and a disregard for the safety of others.

McFadden said that in January 2019, about eight months before Z'Yon was killed, Davenport saw a rival gang member in line at a Cook Out restaurant drive-thru.

Davenport, who was alone, shot at the car, which followed him and created a shootout down Roxboro Road, according to prosecutors.

A 14-year-old girl in a Jeep was shot in the leg.

Afterward, Davenport painted his silver Honda Accord maroon. Davenport had the maroon Honda painted black after Z'Yon was killed, according to statements in court. Davenport's attorneys raised questions about whether it was Davenport's vehicle involved in the January shooting.

McFadden argued that Davenport gave into the culture of violence, picking up felonies and other charges starting when he was 15 years old.

Davenport went on to a life of carrying and brandishing guns, selling drugs and shooting at rivals. It was a life he lived and rapped about.

And even after he shot a 14-year-old, he continued the pattern that killed Z'Yon and would have killed others if key witnesses didn't come forward, McFadden said.

"He would have not stopped," McFadden said.

This is a breaking news story that will be updated after court resumes Tuesday afternoon.


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