DAYTON, Ohio - A 63-year-old man accused of shooting and killing two teens on his West Dayton property was indicted Thursday on charges of murder and felonious assault, which comes after months of public outcry over a lack of an arrest and criminal prosecution in the killings.
Victor Santana, who owned the home at 848 Conner St., has been indicted by a Montgomery County grand jury for fatally shooting 17-year-old Dayton residents Devin Henderson and Javier Harrison.
“The evidence in this case does not demonstrate a reasonable claim of self-defense,” Montgomery County Prosecutor Mat Heck Jr. said.
Santana is in the Montgomery County Jail following his arrest on a warrant Thursday. Santana faces four counts of murder, five counts of felonious assault and one count of attempt to commit murder.
Henderson, 17, of Dayton, died after being shot twice in the back in a garage at 848 Conners St., according to crime scene and autopsy photos and Montgomery County Coroner’s Office records.
Harrison, also 17, was struck by gunfire in his back, arm and thigh, the records show.
Prosecutors announced they will seek a high bond for Santana from the judge, because Santana has multiple residences in the U.S., including in New Mexico and California.
In September, Montgomery County Prosecutor’s Office spokesman Greg Flannagan said Dayton Police Department investigators met with a panel of assistant prosecuting attorneys and reviewed the evidence in the case.
“It was agreed by everyone that additional investigation needs to be completed before a formal filing of charges,” Flannagan said at the time. “The investigators will notify us when the investigation is complete in order to set a date to present the filing.”
Linda Henderson, Devin Henderson’s mother, said it was heartbreaking to learn her son and his friend were shot in the back.
“That’s bad news for any parent to hear,” she said. “To me, it seems like they were just trying to get away.”
Dayton police Chief Richard Biehl on multiple occasions has said a new state law shifts the burden of proof in self-defense cases from the defendant to the prosecutors, which could affect this case.
“The burden is on the state to prove this was not self-defense — it’s a high standard,” Biehl said.
At about 9:30 p.m. Aug. 28, a resident of the home at 848 Conners St. says he heard noises and voices outside and saw a light from a car in his garage, police said.
The man, who authorities have not identified, encountered three individuals and fired multiple shots from a .38-caliber pistol, police said.
Henderson and Harrison were shot and killed, and the third individual, 19-year-old Jashin Gibson, fled but then returned when police and fire crews arrived on scene, police said. Gibson was arrested for breaking and entering.
Gibson was booked in the Montgomery County Jail on a probation violation related to a robbery conviction, but was no longer there Thursday.
Police said the detached garage was unsecured and open. The garage is about 15 feet from the home.
Henderson was struck by two bullets in the back, according to coroner records and photos.
One struck the left side of his upper back, and the other struck the right side, around the shoulder blade.
Crime scene photographs show Henderson’s body wedged between the far wall of the garage and a silver Lincoln Continental.
Harrison was struck by a bullet in the mid-section of the left back. It exited his chest and was recovered from his clothing, the initial autopsy report states.
He also was hit in the thigh and the left forearm, with the bullet exiting through his elbow.
Harrison’s body was found in the grass outside the garage, with his feet by the entryway, according to crime scene photos.
The shooter called 911 to report the incident. He put the pistol down on his front porch before emergency responders arrived.
Attorney Michael Wright, who is representing Harrison’s family, said it’s “somewhat obvious” that the shooting was not in self-defense.
“We believe that they probably shouldn’t have been in the garage; however, they shouldn’t have been killed for being in the garage,” he said.
In August, Biehl said it was tragic that two teens lost their lives, and police were consulting with prosecutors about the case. Biehl said it will be up to prosecutors to determine if it was a justifiable case of self-defense or a criminal act.
Under a new state law, prosecutors must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a person who uses deadly force did not do so in self-defense, defense of another or defense of the person’s residence. The burden used to be on the defendant to prove they acted in self-defense.
Biehl said there was evidence of some drug activity taking place in the garage. Harrison’s father, Jimmy Harrison, previously said the boys sometimes went to the property to smoke marijuana.
Henderson’s mother said the boys had gone to the property multiple times before. She said the shooter should have called the police when he heard noises outside or fire a warning shot.
“I’m hearing this today that my son was shot twice in the back, and that little boy three times — that’s not right at all,” Linda Henderson said. “They didn’t have a chance.”
She said she wants justice for her son, who was a twin, and for Harrison and his family.