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Man Admitted Killing African American, Detective Says : Courts: At hearing on whether there is enough evidence to support hate-crime charges, investigator says co-defendant used racial slur. Both have pleaded not guilty.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A Huntington Beach man suspected of embracing white supremacist beliefs admitted to a friend that he gunned down an African American man during a street confrontation in September, a homicide detective testified Wednesday.

A co-defendant in the case also used a racial slur to describe the slaying victim, the detective added.

The testimony came during a court hearing to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to support charges that Jonathan Kinsey, 19, shot and killed Vernon W. Flournoy, 44, of Huntington Beach because he was black. Robert Wofford, 17, of Laguna Niguel was also involved in the confrontation and faces the same murder and hate-crime charges.

The two have pleaded not guilty. Their defense attorneys say law-enforcement officials and the media have wrongly portrayed their clients as “skinheads.”

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In addition, Kinsey, who is also known by the last name of Kennedy, faces two counts of attempted murder and one count of committing a hate crime for shooting two Latino men a month earlier. Shooting victims Angel Campos Silia and Juan Vergara, both 22, survived their injuries.

Deputy Public Defender Sharon Petrosino has said her client was not involved in shooting Silia and Vergara but that he admits shooting Flournoy only in self-defense.

Huntington Beach Detective Dale Mason testified in West Orange County Municipal Court that an optometrist who witnessed the Sept. 15 shooting said Flournoy met Wofford and Kinsey outside a McDonald’s restaurant on Beach Boulevard.

The optometrist said it appeared the defendants were blocking the victim’s path when angry words were exchanged and a fight broke out, Mason said. The optometrist could not tell who threw the first punch, the detective testified.

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According to the optometrist, the young men were “getting the better” of Flournoy when shots rang out, Flournoy collapsed and the two others continued on their way, Mason said.

He said that Kinsey and Wofford went to the nearby home of friend Donald James, who told police the pair admitted the shooting. James told authorities Kinsey admitted that “he shot (Flournoy) a few times” while Wofford used a racial slur to describe the victim, Mason testified.

A search of James’ home turned up several casings and several live rounds from a .22-caliber weapon that apparently had been flushed down the toilet, Mason testified. Flournoy was shot with a .22-caliber weapon, he said.

In other testimony, Eric Chapman testified that he and Wofford belong to the Drunken Irish Brotherhood, a “party crew” of young men. Chapman testified the group gets together to drink and hang out and is not involved with white supremacist beliefs.

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The hearing before Judge Thomas J. Borris is expected to conclude next week, after prosecutors call a hate crime expert to the stand.


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