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High schooler to stand trial in Gardena shooting death of 18-year-old

A high school student accused of fatally shooting an 18-year-old in Gardena last year will stand trial in the killing, a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge ruled Monday.

Judge Dudley W. Gray II said there was sufficient evidence to try Jordan Emon Joseph, 18, in the June 26, 2015, shooting that killed Kody Cook as he sat in his car outside a Baskin-Robbins store in Gardena, less than half a mile from his home.

When Joseph was taken into custody in July, he was charged as a juvenile. On Jan. 13, a judge ruled that Joseph should be moved out of juvenile court because of the severity of the crime, said his defense attorney J. Tooson.

"Obviously, we disagreed," Tooson said. “Our hearts go out to the Cook family in this process … but the appropriate venue should have been juvenile court, not only because of [Joseph's] age but because of his complete lack of criminal history. We believe when a minor commits a crime, or allegedly commits a crime, juvenile court, with all its programs and amenities available, is the best option for rehabilitation.”

Joseph, who is black, is accused of walking up to Cook’s grey BMW and shooting him multiple times in the face and neck before running away.

Another 17-year-old boy was also charged with being an accessory after the fact in juvenile court, but the charges were dropped last fall.

Friends and family of both the defendant and the victim filled the Torrance courtroom during the preliminary hearing.

Dressed in a blue jumpsuit, Joseph sat straight and nearly motionless during the hearing, staring forward the entire time.

The first testimony came from Cook's long-time friend, Shage Miller who was with Cook during his final hours.

Miller said that on the night of the killing, he, Cook and another friend parked Cook’s BMW on Arcturus Avenue in Gardena, near their homes, to smoke marijuana.

After about five minutes, he said, a tan-colored Dodge Caravan minivan parked nearby and a black youth got out and leaned against the van, staring into their car.

In the courtroom, Miller pointed to Joseph and identified him as the young man who had a “stare off” with the three friends in Cook’s car.

Miller said the three stayed just a few minutes after the van pulled up. Just before they left, Cook rolled down his window and said, “What’s up?”

Joseph didn’t respond, Miller said, so Cook drove away to take their friend home. After they dropped him off, Miller testified, he and Cook agreed to meet another friend at the Baskin-Robbins parking lot to smoke more marijuana.

Miller said the two got to the parking lot and waited in the car. Miller said he was rolling a joint when out of the corner of his eye he saw a black man in a white shirt jog up to Cook’s open window.

“The defendant said, ‘What’s up now?’ and then he proceeded to cock back his weapon and fire,” Miller said, his voice faltering. “Kody was in the middle of starting the car and trying to push the gun away with his door at the same time. [The shooter] was very close, about 4 or 5 feet ... I looked over and Kody had blood coming out of him.”

Miller said he jumped out of the car with his phone and ran inside the Good Neighbor store, which shares a parking lot with the ice cream store. He called 911 and a few seconds later, he noticed the tan minivan pulling away out of the parking lot.

Miller said he returned to the BMW to get his wallet or money — he couldn’t remember exactly what — then left the scene with their friend to tell Cook’s father what had happened.

“I know it was wrong [to leave the shooting scene],” he said, “but I was scared…. I didn’t know what was going on.”

Cook’s father, William “Kevin” Cook, wiped tears from his face repeatedly during Miller’s testimony.

He abruptly left the courtroom as Joseph’s defense attorney questioned Miller closely about whether he and Cook were involved in a gang or carried a gun, points that Miller emphatically denied.

Peter Flores, an employee of the Good Neighbor store, and John Ababa, a customer who was leaving the store, both testified that they saw a black man shoot into the BMW.

Flores said he saw a Latino walking with the black man before the pair split and the Latino walked toward the back of the parking lot, where witnesses said the tan minivan was parked.

Ababa also saw the tan minivan leaving the parking lot. He said he saw the shooter’s face “in its entirety,” and identified Joseph as the shooter.

Gardena police investigators testified that Joseph’s close friend, Gabriel Clark, drove a tan Caravan minivan. 

Surveillance cameras showed a Catholic cross on the dashboard of the vehicle that left the shooting scene, the same cross as on Clark’s minivan.

Joseph’s backpack with his high school ID was found inside Clark’s tan minivan as well, the investigators said.

The prosecutor called Joseph’s grandfather, Julius Edward Dorsey, to testify that he kept three guns in a drawer in his house, where the defendant and his mother also lived.

The guns included a 25-caliber automatic pistol that was missing when investigators later searched the house, Dorsey said, but he noted that his house had been burglarized the year before.

The holster was still there, with the two other guns, he said, but he never looked closely to see if the 25-caliber gun was missing after that break-in.

The gun that killed Cook has not been found, but investigators testified that six 25-caliber bullet casings were found at the scene.

Bail was set at $2 million and the next hearing to set a trial date was scheduled for April 11 in department SWL of the Torrance Courthouse.

Contact the Homicide Report. Follow @latimeshomicide on Twitter.

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