Video evidence of shooting presented at Wheeling murder trial | News, Sports, Jobs

Photo by Emma Delk Niyajah Hales faces a first-degree murder charge in the 2021 shooting of Wheeling resident Michael J. Jackson.

WHEELING — On the first day of Niyajah Hales’ trial in the 2021 death of Wheeling resident Michael J. Jackson, the prosecution presented jurors with surveillance footage from the VooDoo Lounge on Wheeling Island where Jackson was shot.

Hales, of Brooklyn, New York, is charged with first-degree murder in the Jackson shooting that occurred early in the morning of January 28, 2021. Ohio County Judge Michael Olejasz is presiding over the trial.

Jackson was shot multiple times outside the Voodoo Lounge by a suspect identified as Hales by the Wheeling Police Department. Jackson later died at WVU Medicine Ruby Memorial Hospital from injuries sustained in the shooting.

Hales' friend, Brian Steele, also of New York, was identified and arrested by the WPD shortly after the shooting.

Steele pleaded guilty to a charge of willful endangerment with a firearm for firing a shot in the Voodoo Lounge the night of Jackson's death and was sentenced to five years in prison in October 2021.

Footage from the night of the shooting was shown to jurors by Ohio County Assistant Prosecutor Shawn Turak during the questioning of the state's first witness, WPD Detective Dean Redinger.

After being called to the scene of the shooting on January 28, Redinger collected evidence and interviewed witnesses at the bar.

In his opening statements, Turak said the surveillance footage would be the “the most convincing evidence” seen during the trial. She noted that the video would show “four fundamental angles” of the altercation between Hales and Jackson, which would represent Hales “unlawful, intentional, willful, deliberate, premeditated and malicious murder of Michael Jackson.”

Defense attorney Braden Noon stressed in his opening statements that the footage instead showed “The story of a bar fight.” He noted that Hales' actions on January 28 were his own. “exercise the right to defend oneself” himself and Steele after Jackson threw a beer bottle at the couple, which escalated the verbal altercation at the bar into physical violence.

Surveillance footage of the shooting shown to jurors included footage from cameras located inside the Voodoo Lounge’s main bar, the poker room and outside the building’s main entrance. Footage from Spunky’s Laundromat, located across the street from the Voodoo Lounge, was also shown during Redinger’s testimony.

The first video Turak released on January 28 is from inside the VooDoo Lounge. The video begins with Hales sitting in the bar's poker room before a verbal altercation ensued between him and Jackson's friend Clint Lekanudos. Jackson then walked into the poker room from the bar and got into a verbal argument with Hales.

Jackson removed himself from the situation and Steele approached Halesd and spoke to him. VooDoo Lounge owner Erick Brothers then escorted Hales and Steele out of the bar.

Redinger said Hales and Steele returned to the bar to retrieve Hales' phone, which Hales realized he had left behind after “to check his person”. Hales noted that while the two were waiting to receive Hales' phone in the area between the VooDoo Lounge's exterior entrance and the bar's interior door, customer Michael Biery handed Hales a phone.

During Redinger's cross-examination by defense attorney Kevin Neiswonger, the detective confirmed to Neiswonger that Biery had given Hales the wrong phone. After the incident, West Virginia police recovered Hales' phone from the bar.

In the VooDoo Lounge footage, Steele attempted to stop Hales from entering the bar. Lekanudos then engaged in another verbal altercation with the two men, culminating in Jackson picking up a beer bottle and throwing it at Hales and Steele.

The bottle missed Hales and Steele and struck Brothers in the head. Redinger noted that Jackson then got into a physical altercation with Steele outside the bar. In surveillance footage from the bar, the door inside the VooDoo Lounge is seen closing behind the three men.

Turak then asked Redinger to identify how long the group was outside in the VooDoo Lounge footage. Redinger said about 20 seconds passed before Redinger “He limps back into the bar smoking a cigarette.” A bullet then entered the bar through the interior entrance of the VooDoo Lounge, forcing patrons to move away.

Surveillance footage from Spunky's Laundromat showing the shooting outside the VooDoo Lounge was later shown to jurors.

In the video, Hales first exited the bar, followed by Steele and Jackson, who got into a physical fight. Redinger said Hales came up behind Steele and Jackson and fired a shot into Jackson's back.

Reviewing the footage from Spunky's laundromat, Turak asked Redinger to count the four shots fired during the altercation.

After the surveillance footage was released, an interview between Hales and WPD Detective Robert Agostino following his arrest in May 2023 was played. In the recording, Hales confirmed that he did not know Jackson before January 28.

In the recording, Hales also said he returned to the bar on Jan. 28 after his initial verbal altercation with Lekanudos to retrieve his phone. He added that he never “looking for trouble” and had “nothing to say” to the officers since he had “I have to tell the court.”

In his cross-examination of Redinger, Neiswonger asked Redinger to confirm that even if Steele and Hales had entered into a “lively verbal conversation” With Lekanudos they left the bar ” without incident “ when the brothers escorted him out.

Neiswonger then asked Reginger if “three to four” Bar patrons confronted Hales and Steele when they returned to the bar to retrieve Steele's phone.

“I don't know if they (the bar patrons) confronted him, but it was Lekanudos who confronted him,” Redinger replied.

Redinger later confirmed to Neiswonger that Jackson had thrown the beer bottle. “first act of physical violence” which occurred on January 28. When Neiswonger asked Redinger who he thought Jackson was trying to hit with the bottle, Redinger said Jackson was aiming “Either Hales or Steele, not Brothers.”

The trial continues today.

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