JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — Johnson City police believe someone knows important facts about a shooting that killed a 19-year-old Kingsport man at Monarch Apartments near East Tennessee State University (ETSU) Jan. 1, and say they need that information to get full justice for the victim.
“There’s someone who knows more information and when that right person steps up and provides that, then it’ll allow us to move forward with the investigation and provide some justice for this family that’s lost a loved one,” Johnson City Police Department (JCPD) Capt. Eric Dougherty told News Channel 11.
“We’re always looking for any help from the community that can provide the information through an anonymous source, through our tiplines, through our Crime Stoppers,” he said. “We’re following up all those leads.”
(Crime Stoppers’ number is (423) 434-6158. People can also text tips along with the code 423 JCPD to 847411, or submit anonymous tips online.)
Ja’Shon Yates died after at least 12 shots were fired at around 2:30 a.m. during a crowded New Year’s Eve party at the student-oriented complex. Police arrested Dae’Vo Jennings Worrell, 22, four days later and charged him with 12 counts of reckless endangerment.
No one else has been charged in the incident, but neither has Jennings-Worrell faced any upgraded charges that could specifically relate to Yates’s death. Asked whether JCPD hopes a higher level of charges could be brought against Jennings-Worrell or someone else related to Yates’s death, Dougherty replied “absolutely.”
The chaotic scene at the apartments has been a complicating factor in the investigation. In post-shooting interviews with News Channel 11, Monarch residents described a status quo at the complex that included easy access to all the buildings, large parties and not infrequent unsafe situations.
Dougherty, who has been named to head JCPD’s Criminal Investigations Division (CID), said investigators have continued to conduct multiple interviews with any witnesses they can get to come forward, and even done some follow up interviews.
“The complication is just not having the right person come forward yet to give us the (key) information,” he said.
JCPD leaders said that since the shooting, they’ve had continued communication with Monarch’s owner, Tarantino Properties — something the department said had not occurred prior to the fatal shooting. They described safety and security changes the complex’s management has begun making in the highly publicized shooting’s wake.
“The partnership … has continued,” Dougherty said. “The last meeting they had with the residents … we had an officer there and spoke with them, and on their part they’ve key coded the doors, the card access, they’re working on purchasing up to 50 more cameras for better surveillance and coverage in the area and they’re also working on (getting) it gated to have limited access to their community.”
Interim Police Chief Billy Church said the cameras provide “additional pieces of evidence for us with any investigation.”
Church added that other changes at Monarch could give residents a greater sense of security at a complex that had two other unsolved shootings (not fatal) in the second half of 2022 and another report of shots fired just a week after Yates’s death.
“Just the simple things of making sure the doors are locked, giving the lease violations, the towing enforcement that they’re doing, parking passes,” Church said. “It’s those simple things that they’re looking for that they didn’t have before that they do or will have now.”
Church said the JCPD has seen a positive difference at Monarch the past six weeks or so in terms of incidents there. But he said moving the needle may not happen overnight at a place that from December 2021 to December 2022 reported 15 assaults, an alleged rape, four weapons violations and three felony drug violations.
“It’ll take some time,” Church said. “How much time I can’t say. That’s going to be up to them. We made recommendations, they’re following them, that’s all we can ask for.”
Jennings-Worrell remains jailed at the Washington County Detention Center and has an appearance hearing scheduled for April 3. He has also been charged, through a March 14 grand jury presentment, for sale of Schedule VI drugs for allegedly selling a half-ounce or more of marijuana to a confidential informant on Sept. 30, 2021. He has a May 10 plea deadline hearing in that case.