Public Safety

Cedar Rapids 18-year-old acquitted in fatal shooting during street fight

Brawl happened in northeast Cedar Rapids in 2016

Kenyauta Vesey-Keith, 16, of Cedar Rapids, looks around during a March 2016 hearing in Linn County District Court. A Lin
Kenyauta Vesey-Keith, 16, of Cedar Rapids, looks around during a March 2016 hearing in Linn County District Court. A Linn County jury on Friday acquitted Keith, now 18, of first-degree murder in the 2016 shooting death of Brandon Johnson, 21, during a March 2016 street fight on Maplewood Drive NE in Cedar Rapids. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — A Linn County jury Friday acquitted an 18-year-old of first-degree murder and other charges following a 2016 street fight in northeast Cedar Rapids that led to the fatal shooting of a 21-year-old and the serious injury of a 16-year-old.

The jury deliberated about three hours Thursday and two hours Friday following a nearly two-week trial before acquitting Kenyauta Vesey-Keith, who was 16 at time of shooting of first-degree murder, attempted murder, willful injury causing serious injury and intimidation with a weapon.

Vesey-Keith, of Cedar Rapids, was accused of fatally shooting Brandon Johnson, 21, and seriously injuring Deaveon Gaudlin, now 18, both of Cedar Rapids, on March 19, 2016, in the 1100 block of Maplewood Drive NE.

The prosecution argued Vesey-Keith participated in a street fight between rival families and their friends that day.

Police said at least a dozen people — adults and juveniles — were fighting in the middle of the street. This brawl was a continuation of a dispute between the families that started in February 2014 with a fight in the Lindale Mall food court.

In the Maplewood Drive fight, the prosecution argued Vesey-Keith took a gun from a vehicle and fired multiple rounds.

Vesey-Keith’s lawyers argued he fired the gun in self-defense and presented evidence that he had previous issues with Johnson and others before the street fight.

In a related case, Vesey-Keith’s mother, Saresa Keith, 39, was convicted of misdemeanor charges of child endangerment and assault causing bodily injury in the fight on Maplewood Drive NE. She received a suspended jail sentence and two years probation.

In her plea, she admitted she brought her son to the fight along with her three daughters, ages 12, 17 and 20, and a 15-year-old family friend. She admitted to assaulting another person with a Taser during the fight.

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