Keymontae Lindsey made his first court appearance Monday in the November shooting death of popular Grant Union High School student and football player Jaulon “J.J.” Clavo amid crowds of family and cameras in Sacramento Superior Court.
Lindsey was arraigned as an adult and faces charges including murder, shooting into an occupied vehicle and a gang enhancement.
The 16-year-old was arrested during a traffic stop on an unrelated weapons charge the day after the deadly shooting, but was officially linked to the murder only last week when Sacramento police announced the new charges.
Lindsey, with his mother and the Clavo family occupying opposite sides of the gallery and facing a line of cameras, appeared distracted and looked around the room while Sacramento Superior Court Judge Jaime Román read a long list of charges.
When Román asked Lindsey whether he could afford an attorney, he mumbled. Moments later, he answered “yeah,” before being admonished by the judge for his informal answers.
“Let’s do yes or no, not yeah,” the judge said.
Lindsey’s next court date is March 7. He remains held in Sacramento County juvenile custody.
Who will represent Lindsey, however, remains unclear. Sacramento County Public Defender’s Office declared a legal conflict in the case, but did not elaborate in court Monday. Defense attorney Paul Irish, a last-minute stand-in on the case, was unsure whether he would be retained to represent Lindsey in further proceedings.
“There are a lot of different conflicts, but they’re not obligated to tell us,” said prosecuting Assistant Chief Deputy District Attorney Rod Norgaard following the brief afternoon hearing.
According to police, Lindsey was found during the traffic stop with the 9-mm handgun used to kill Clavo. Police allege Lindsey walked up to Clavo’s car Nov. 13, and shot him in the neck as the 17-year-old Grant defensive back and three of his teammates were blocks from Grant High School.
Another teen in the car, Malik Johnson, was shot in the arm. Lindsey also faces a charge of attempted homicide in Johnson’s shooting.
Prosecutors say Lindsey was either “affiliated with or committed the shooting in service to” the Strawberry Manor Bloods street gang. Clavo did not know Lindsey, police said.
Outside Román’s courtroom at Sacramento County Main Jail, family members from both sides gathered before the 1:30 p.m. hearing. Nicole Clavo was dressed in a black T-shirt with the words “stop the violence” emblazoned on the front and a picture of son J.J. on the back.
In an emotional encounter, Ranika Moore, Lindsey’s mother, approached and embraced Clavo, causing her to cry, before both entered the courtroom, one mother mourning her son, the other pondering her own son’s fate.
Moore told Clavo, “be encouraged,” she said afterward in an interview with The Sacramento Bee.
“At the end of the day, we’re both parents. Those are our babies, period,” Moore said.
Moore and other family members also questioned why authorities would charge the teenager as an adult, describing Lindsey as a typical kid who played football and toyed with dirt bikes. Responding to police allegations that Lindsey was arrested during a traffic stop, she said her son doesn’t own or drive a car.
Moore said she never received a call from police about the murder charges and found out from her son.
She was adamant that her son attended school but declined to say where. Records from the Elk Grove Unified School District show Lindsey enrolled at Valley High School in Sacramento from September to October 2015, but only attended a few days, according to district spokeswoman Xanthi Pinkerton. Prior to that, records show Lindsey bounced around several schools in the Sacramento region.
“I stand by his innocence 1,000 percent,” Moore said. “He is a child, not an adult. He is a goofy, respectable kid.”
Following the hearing, Moore declined to address reporters and walked out of the courthouse accompanied by family members.
Nicole Clavo, meanwhile, talked to the media but did not answer questions about the encounter with Moore.
“It’s just a waiting game,” Clavo said of the judicial process before leaving to meet with the district attorney.
The shooting shook the North Sacramento community as Clavo’s mother, community leaders, clergy and police sought answers and residents raised a $40,000 reward for information leading to an arrest in the incident. On Monday, Norgaard said investigators’ work continues, but again expressed frustration at what he said was a lack of cooperation in a community that celebrated Clavo’s exploits on the football field and in the classroom.
“There wasn’t a lot of cooperation from the community. This was a very crowded intersection with a lot of people, and there are a lot of witnesses who haven’t come forward to this day. I hope they do come forward,” Norgaard said outside the courtroom. “Here’s someone whose done right by his community. The least the community could do is do right by him.”