Gang member gets 34 years for grudge shooting that killed innocent victim

Devina Johnson

It was a classic gang grudge, meted out with the typical senseless street violence.

Two Blood gang members took aim at a rival Crip one August day in 2011.

The shots missed the target and instead hit a young mother sitting in a parked car near 36th Street and Ames Avenue.

Devina Johnson, 17, died that day, leaving behind a toddler.

Tracy Wooten Jr. was sentenced Friday to 34 years in prison for manslaughter in connection with Johnson's death and for an earlier attempted robbery charge.

Wooten, the suspected gunman in Johnson's death, will serve about 17 years before he is eligible for release.

Douglas County prosecutors reduced murder charges against Wooten and co-defendant TristianRodriguez-Shelly after key witnesses changed or recanted their testimony.

Rodriguez-Shelly was sentenced to 16 years in prison on gun charges. Under sentencing guidelines for gun violations, he will serve about 10 years before he is eligible for release.

Matt Kuhse, deputy Douglas County attorney, said prosecutors were frustrated with the plea bargain but had no other choice because one witness disappeared and another changed his story.

“The state's star witness was a gang banger who could not get his story straight with Omaha police,” said Wooten's attorney, Mikki Jerabek, an assistant public defender.

Authorities alleged that Wooten and Rodriguez-Shelly were going after a rival Crip.

The man who drove them to 36th and Ames — Damonte Jackson — told police that he didn't see the shooting but that Wooten described firing three shots and Rodriguez-Shelly described his gun jamming.

Kuhse said authorities have been unable to find Jackson. Riley Griffey, a Crip and the purported target of the shooting, repeatedly changed his story.

Lawyers described two defendants who had troubled childhoods in which they turned to gangs for the camaraderie and support they weren't getting at home.

Devina Johnson had a tough life, too, Kuhse said. She was a teen mom while still in foster care, but she was on track to graduate from Benson High School.

In a letter to the court, Devina Johnson's foster mother described the tragedy. She said the 17-year-old was in the car to pick up Griffey.

“This case is the classic example of gang violence and its impact on the community,” Kuhse said.

“Somebody else was Mr. Wooten's target. Devina Johnson — she was the unfortunate victim in this case.”

In an earlier version of this story, a summary headline below the main headline incorrectly said that Devina Johnson's toddler was with her in the car at the time of the shooting.

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