Dival Magwood walked to the witness stand, his metal shackles clanking with each shortened step.
He wore orange prison scrubs with long white sleeves underneath. The judge had sent the jury on a break. He didn’t want them prejudiced by the scene of the 24-year-old hobbling to the witness chair.
Once there, Magwood adjusted the microphone as he prepared to tell his story about growing up in a gang in Durham and how violent cycles of retribution led to the murder of a boy riding in a car to get snow cones.
Magwood testified Thursday at the federal trial of Antonio “Lil Tony” Davenport, who is charged with killing 9-year-old old Z’Yon Person on Aug. 18, 2019, to advance his position in the Braggtown-based Eight Trey Gangster Crips gang. Davenport is expected to testify next week in the trial unfolding in the U.S. Middle District courthouse in Greensboro.
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Davenport contends he was only an associate member of the gang. He was driving the car that sprayed bullets on Z’Yon’s aunt’s SUV, but his attorneys have said he didn’t know the two fellow gang members in his car were going to open fire.
Prosecutors contend that Davenport shot at the SUV, but Davenport’s attorneys argued that Derrick Dixon, who was in the back seat, shot two guns.
If convicted of the federal murder, weapon and racketeering charges, Davenport faces two life sentences and another 10 years in prison or more.
In March, Magwood and Dixon pleaded guilty to conspiracy to engage in acts of racketeering and commission of a violent crime in aid of racketeering. Their plea deals don’t outline their expected sentencing, but a recommendation from the U.S. Attorney’s Office could help them get a shorter sentence later this summer.
For prosecutors, Magwood not only served as a witness to the 2019 shooting — he was in the front passenger’s seat of the car as Davenport and Dixon opened fire, he testified. He also educated the jury on gang life and interpreted the language they used in raps songs and on social media messages linked to the case.
Middle school initiation
Magwood grew up in the Oxford Manor public housing complex, which is Eight Trey Gangster Crips Braggtown territory, he said.
He first heard about the gang in middle school, and a man who went by the name Gutta recruited him when he was in eighth grade.
“I got into a fight with one dude, and he was impressed,” Magwood said.
He thought the gang members were cool, he said, and he looked up to some of them.
Initiation included three guys beating him up for three minutes. If he fell, he would have to start again.
Members were expected to “put in work” and could gain higher ranks through shootings at rivals known as “opps,” along with other crimes such as robberies, breaking and entering and selling drugs.
“Anything they can do,” he said.
A gang change
At one time, gang members in the Braggtown set could also be part of the Crips as well as other homegrown gangs that hung out in the Hoover Road public housing area. They were associated with gang names that included O’Block, 8 AM, and the Food Lion Projects.
But a Crips gang leader ended the dual memberships, Magwood said, and members had to pick one or the other.
Those who chose the neighborhood gangs became rivals, Magwood said.
“From there you was ordered to shoot at them,” or beat them up, he said.
The neighborhood gangs became the Braggtown Crips’ chief rival, along with members of Durham United Blood Nation gang sets, prosecutors contend in court documents.
Four days before Z’Yon was killed, Davenport was jumped at The Streets at Southpoint mall by two rival gang members who took one of his chains.
They posted a video of the assault on social media, shaming Davenport and his gang.
Afterward, Davenport went to Magwood’s apartment.
“He was upset about it,” Magwood said.
In an interview, Davenport told The News & Observer he didn’t know the people who had attacked him.
But Magwood said Davenport identified two rivals known as Slime and Savage — and that he wanted revenge.
Later that day, Davenport signed a record contract for his rap group, a rising trio known as 83 Babies. Then he and others went to a house where the Braggtown Crips hung out.
“Everyone had seen the video,” Magwood said.
At the house, they searched Instagram for posts that might show the rivals’ location. It was a common tactic for gang members to post live feeds to taunt, lure and ideally ambush their rivals when they tried to find them.
After finding one post in which a location was identified, the group piled into two cars, Magwood said.
“Basically, he was telling us to pull up on him,” Magwood said, referring to the person who’d made the Instagram post.
They shot at one person, Magwood said, but Davenport wasn’t happy with the result.
“He was saying that one of them needs to get dropped,” Magwood said, later explaining to the jury that meant Davenport wanted someone to get shot.
Magwood said he sold marijuana and crack cocaine in the gang’s territory that includes the Oxford Mannor public housing in Braggtown, as well as McDougald Terrace and Liberty Street complexes.
He and Dixon were shooters, he said, which the gang called demons.
As he testified, prosecutors presented Instagram messages and texts shared by Davenport and others discussing the hunt for rivals, drug and guns sales.
They also shared photos of key gang members and of Davenport with bags of marijuana and gave the jury 83 Babies songs lyrics and played music videos that showed him and others rapping, holding guns and smoking while singing about drug sales and shootings.
‘Punishable by death’
The gang has its own language, Magwood testified.
They spell words that end in “ck” with “cc,” because ck means Crip killer.
Instead of saying OK, they write okill. Instead of happy B-day, they say happy C-day because b stands for rival Bloods gang.
They call marijuana gas, guns choppers and rivals opps.
They all go by street names, like Ace, Smacc, and Paco.
They also have hand signals, like holding up three fingers (the word trey means three), or making a C or G with their hands.
Cooperating with police was the ultimate betrayal, Magwood testified.
“Punishable by death,” he said.
After the mall assault
In the days that followed the mall assault, members of the Eight Trey Gangster Crips messaged each other about the location of rival O’Block and 8AM gang members, known to hang out in the Hoover Road complex and the apartment complex the Oaks at Northgate, located between Broad and North Duke streets.
Two days before Z’Yon’s killing, Davenport messaged Magwood about buying ammunition. The next day, Davenport’s girlfriend bought 9 mm and .40-caliber ammunition for Davenport at Mace Sports in Mebane, she testified.
On the day of the shooting, Davenport picked up Magwood and Dixon. Dixon sat behind Davenport who was driving, and Magwood was in the front seat. They were all armed. Davenport was wearing an ankle monitor related to some Wake County domestic violence charges.
“Why did Mr. Davenport come see you this day?” asked Assistant U.S. Attorney Joanna McFadden.
“I guess he was in the mood to go ride and retaliate,” Magwood said.
Night of Z’Yon’s killing
Davenport drove toward the Oaks at Northgate and parked as people in the car searched Instagram looking for clues about their rivals location, Magwood testified.
Dixon pointed to an SUV that he said was a rival gang member’s, but they couldn’t see inside because of the dark tint.
They followed the SUV as it traveled eastbound on Leon Street and pulled into the left turn lane at the red light at the intersection of North Duke Street.
When the light turned green, Davenport drove past the SUV, Magwood testified. Dixon rolled down the window and started shooting. Davenport followed.
Magwood’s position didn’t allow him to get a shot, he said.
“Would you have taken a shot if you had it,” the U.S. attorney asked.
“Yes,” he said.
After the killing
The day after the shooting, Davenport went to Magwood and was emotional about the shooting, Magwood testified.
They talked about getting rid of the guns and getting Davenport’s car painted from maroon to black, he testified.
Six days after Z’yon’s killing, Magwood testified, Davenport and other gang members were still focused on retribution.
“They just said all opps downtown at screwers ... my cuz just seen them,” Davenport messaged members in the gang.
Davenport indicated he had a rental car but someone had to come get it because of his ankle monitor, Magwood testified.