At least five Long Beach teens were indicted by a Nassau County grand jury on Tuesday on second-degree gang assault charges in connection with a brawl that left an Oceanside student dead.
Seven teens, including a former star Long Beach High School player, were arrested on Sept. 27 for their alleged participation in the Sept. 16 fight that led to the stabbing death of 16-year-old Khaseen Morris, a student at Oceanside High School.
The teens — two of whom are minors and were not identified — were indicted two weeks after the main suspect, Tyler Flach, was indicted on second-degree murder and weapons charges. Flach is currently being held without bail.
Court records show that Haakim Mechan, 19, of East Fulton Street; Marquis Stephens Jr., 18, of East Pine Street; Javonte Neals, 18, of East Pine Street; Taj Woodruff, 17, of East Fulton Street; Sean Merritt, 17, East Pine Street; were all charged with second-degree gang assault. It was unclear if the two other minors who were also arrested on Sept. 27 will face those same charges.
Newsday reported that the two unnamed minors had also been indicted on gang assault charges, and Flach’s attorney also confirmed that his client was charged with gang assault.
“Given the charges of which we are already aware, this charge comes as no surprise.” Flach’s attorney, Edward Sapone, said. “There is a lot that is not known which will come to light at the appropriate time. Tyler looks forward to his day in court.”
Mechan’s attorney, David Haber, said that his client plans on pleading not guilty to the second-degree assault charge.
“Haakim had absolutely nothing to do with Morris’s death,” Haber said. “ He was not engaged in fighting with [Morris] and had no knowledge that anyone else had a knife on them.”
Neals’s attorney, Lawrence Carra, said that his client would also plead not guilty to the charge and added that he would continue to investigate the matter.
All suspects pleaded not guilty at their initial arraignment in First District Court in Hempstead on Sept 28. They were held on $25,000 bond or $12,500 cash bail.
At the intial arraignment, several of the defendants' lawyers distanced themselves from Flach’s actions.
“We maintain his innocence,” Stephens’s lawyer, William Kephart, said on Tuesday. “Marquis had no weapon and nor was he involved in the altercation with Khaseen Morris.”
Stephens, who was a star wide receiver on the Long Beach High School football team, allegedly “body-slammed” a second victim who suffered a broken arm in the brawl, police said.
Woodruff and Merritt’s defense attorneys could not be immediately reached for comment, and a spokesman for the Nassau County District Attorney's office declined to comment.
Detective Lt. Stephen Fitzpatrick, commanding officer of the NCPD's Homicide Squad, said at a news conference on Sept. 19 that the dispute between Flach and Morris was over a girl who had recently broken up with one of Flach's friends two weeks before the altercation.
Fitzpatrick said that Morris and the girl were friends and that the girl’s ex-boyfriend, who was not identified, may have been jealous. Fitzpatrick added that Flach and his friends went to the strip mall to fight Morris. Flach, he said, took it to the “next level” and stabbed him. Another teen suffered an arm injury. Video of the brawl went viral on social media.
Ryder said that police received 14 911 calls reporting the incident on Brower Avenue at 3:45 p.m. that day, and about a dozen calls were made through Nassau County Crime Stoppers. Morris, who police said was stabbed multiple times, was taken to South Nassau Communities Hospital, where he died of his injuries.
“That started a very intense homicide investigation,” Ryder said.
Fitzpatrick said that Flach was the “most violent” of the group. He added that one of the minors who was arrested was the ex-boyfriend of the girl who befriended Morris. Flach and the other seven teens were active in the attack on Khaseen and his friends, “physically beating and throwing him to the ground.”
“She broke up with him, and this fight happened as a result of jealousy that Khaseen was seen with the girl,” he said at the news conference. “They came with the intention to seriously hurt them, and Khaseen got killed as a result of that.”
The Morris family could not be immediately reached for comment, and the defendants are expected back in court this month to face arraignments.