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Man falsely accused in shooting of infant speaks

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Antonio “Tony” Byrd, 24, patiently waited in Jackson City Court Wednesday morning for the preliminary hearing of his younger brother Justin O’Neal Byrd, 22.

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It had been a little over a week since Tony Byrd had been released from jail after charges were dismissed against him for a crime he didn't commit. Even more shocking for him was the fact that his brother and his brother’s girlfriend were the ones who told police that he was the one who committed the crime.

Jackson police said on June 17, around 10:30 p.m., a shot, which was fired during a dispute at the Villages Apartments, located at 550 Old Hickory Blvd., Building 16, struck one-year-old Jabari Cox.

The infant was rushed to the Jackson-Madison County General Hospital in critical condition and then driven to Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital in Memphis. He was released on June 28.

Police sent out a news release on June 18, identifying the brothers as suspects in the incident.
Tony Byrd said the nightmare began for him as he was laying in bed, in Milan, on June 18.

“My stepdaughter said someone was knocking on the door,” Tony Byrd said Wednesday outside of Jackson City Court. “It was the U.S. Marshals.”

Tony Byrd said he was told that he was being arrested on two counts of attempted second-degree murder, felony reckless endangerment and tampering with evidence. He was arraigned in Jackson City Court on June 19 and his bond was set at $250,000.

Justin Byrd, who was also arrested, remained in custody that day, but had not been formally charged at that time as police continued to investigate the incident. He was being held on an unrelated parole violation.

Later that week, police announced that the wrong brother, Tony Byrd, had been charged in the shooting and it was because of false police reports from Justin Byrd and his girlfriend Jamila Kinnie.

According to police, investigators continued to work throughout the week on the case and an associated burglary case. At the time the shooting occurred, several people had been in a verbal confrontation with Justin Byrd and Kinnie, on June 17. Justin Byrd stayed with Kinnie in Building 16 and was suspected by their neighbors of breaking into their apartment and stealing a television earlier in the day. It was during that confrontation that the shot was fired, from a red Fiat in which Justin Byrd was a passenger, that struck the child.

Police said the suspects in the burglary were identified and investigators determined that Justin Byrd did participate in the burglary. Meanwhile, information developed by investigators in interviews of eyewitnesses, who had previously been unavailable to police, cast doubt on Justin Byrd and Kinnie’s statements against and photo identification of Tony Byrd.

When Justin Byrd and Kinnie were questioned again by investigators, both recanted their statements and identifications of Tony Byrd, with Justin Byrd identifying another individual as the driver and shooter.

Tony Byrd said he was very upset when he learned that his brother had lied on him.

“I was pissed off,” Tony Byrd said. “I didn't think my brother would do me like that.”

The investigators were able to corroborate the witnesses who identified Justin Byrd as the shooter and explore Tony Byrd’s alibi. All findings were reviewed with the District Attorney’s Office. police said.

“My brother and I had talked earlier in court,” Tony Byrd said, “I asked him why did he say I was there. He told me he didn't know. I told him, ‘You need to do something. Clear my name.’”

According to an affidavit of complaint, one of those witnesses was the driver of the Fiat. The driver said Justin Byrd , who was sitting in the front passenger seat, reached across him and fired a shot from a pistol out the window towards a group of people in the complex.

Two other witnesses, who were standing near the infant at the time of the shooting, also identified Justin Byrd as the shooter.

On June 24, Justin Byrd was arraigned ,via video feed, on charges of attempted first-degree murder and filing a false police report and his bond was set at $250,000. Kinnie, who made bond after being taken into custody for filing a false police report, was also arraigned.

Before the couple was arraigned, the prosecutor asked that charges against Tony Byrd be dismissed.

Tony Byrd, who also appeared via video feed, was watching as the judge agreed to dismiss the charges against him.

After Tony Byrd stood up from the blue chair he had been sitting in, he passed his younger brother, neither looking at the other, as Justin Byrd sat in the seat to be arraigned.

“I just couldn't look at him,” Tony Byrd said.

Tony Byrd said it feels good to be free once again.

“I’m happy to be out,” Tony Byrd said. “It was messed up that I had to be locked up for something I didn't do.”

Justin Byrd and Kinnie’s preliminary hearings were reset Wednesday for July 11 at 9:30 a.m. and Tony Byrd said he will do his best to be at every hearing his brother has.

“I’m going to try to be there for my little brother,” Tony Byrd said. “I believe he didn't do it. I believe some (people) he was with did it. The truth will come out.”

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