Push toward "Justice For Janessa" takes step forward

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The push to get justice for a young Fresno girl is taking a step forward this week.

The push to get justice for a young Fresno girl is taking a step forward this week.

Nine-year-old Janessa Ramirez was accidentally shot and killed last January and the man accused of firing the shot was in court Thursday. Prosecutors say Cooks shot at a gang snitch but hit Janessa as the girl stood next to her mom outside a laundromat.

Action News talked to cooks in jail a few months ago and he apologized for his role in her death but told us he shouldn't be the only person held accountable. With family and friends by her side, Stacey Ramirez walked into court in a sea of purple. The uniformity of color is designed as a message. They want justice for her 9-year-old daughter, Janessa.

Police collected surveillance video from seven businesses near the scene of her death. It showed them a confrontation between a guy with a skateboard and a light-colored car. "I recall the victim, Janessa Ramirez, falling to the ground and then observing the vehicle go southbound Marks and then onto westbound Clinton," said Fresno police detective Antonio Rivera.

Brian Cooks was the skateboarder and he's now the poster boy in the "Justice for Janessa" movement. He alone faces charges related to her death. But it wasn't always that way. At a preliminary hearing Thursday, investigators testified about arresting Isaac Stafford.

Police now say he was the target when Cooks opened fire. "He has been labeled as a snitch," Rivera testified. "They have received threats and also, he has been shot at."

In an interview from jail, Cooks told Action News Stafford and Donte Hawkins should also be held accountable for Janessa's death. His defense attorney says Cooks only shot to defend himself after they fired several shots at him. And he's not convinced Cooks fired the deadly shot. But in a tense arrest 11 days after Janessa's killing, "We identified ourselves as police officers. I had my department-issued handgun with me," said Fresno police Sgt. Justin Hoagland. "We ordered them down to the ground at gunpoint and both the individuals complied."

Police believe they found the murder weapon with Cooks and a friend. A California Department of Justice analyst says the gun found with Cooks could've fired the deadly shot, but four other shell casings found at the scene could not have been fired by the same gun.

Judge Arlan Harrell is expected to decide Friday whether there is enough evidence for Cooks to stand trial for murder.

Related Topics:
shootingmurderchild deathfresnotrialFresno
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