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Investigators: Feud Between Teens Led to Fatal Covington Shooting

It was a feud between two rival factions of teenagers that led to the shooting death of Desean Peterson, 19, on Sunday night, Covington Police Chief Spike Jones and Kenton County Commonwealth's Attorney Rob Sanders said Tuesday.

The pair hosted a news conference at Covington Police headquarters Wednesday morning twelve hours after The River City News first reported that six people had been taken into custody in connection with Peterson's death.

Arresed Tuesday and charged with complicity to murder were Reginald Bates, 19, Hassan Abdullah, 18, and Eugene Smith, 18, as well as a 16 and 17-year old who also face the complicity charge. Mikyle Holloway, 19, was charged with tampering with physical evidence for his alleged role in disposing of the gun used to kill Peterson, a weapon that Sanders would not confirm or deny has been recovered.

Each of the four adults in the case pleaded not guilt in Kenton County District Court Wednesday morning and are being held without bond at the Kenton County Detention Center. They are scheduled for a preliminary hearing next Thursday when their case may be bound over to the Kenton County Grand Jury.

The two juveniles whose names are not being released are in custody in Campbell County where it will be determined later whether they will be tried as adults.

All of the suspects are from Covington.

Covington Police investigators in conjunction with the Commonwealth's Attorney Office worked for forty-eight hours non-stop on the case before making the six arrests Tuesday. More may be yet to come.

"There is the possibility for additional arrests but I'm not promising anything," Chief Jones said.

The chief applauded the neighborhood where Peterson was gunned down in his front yard for the residents' cooperation in the investigation. "That community put their foot down and let us know what they would tolerate. Shootings in the streets of Covington are intolerable," Jones said.

The chief said that the department was overwhelmed with helpful tips from an outraged community.

Sanders explained that only one gun was used in the drive-by shooting but because of the nature of the crime, all but Holloway were charged with complicity to commit murder, which carries the same possible penalty as a simple murder charge: twenty to fifty years or life in prison. Sanders does not anticipate that the charges will elevate to a death penalty case but did not fully rule out the possibility.

Sanders also thanked the residents for their cooperation.

"The community stepped up to the plate to cooperate," he said. Dozens of interviews were conducted of witnesses and possible suspects, Sanders said. "Murder investigations don't get much swifter than this."

"It's been a long time since we had a crime like this in Covington. Hopefully we won't have another for a very long time," Sanders said.

"There seems to be a lot of fear in a lot of cities about coming forward," Chief Jones said. "I have not seen much of that here in the past five to six years."

As for the chain of events that led to the suspects arriving at the intersection of Seventeenth and Garrard Streets in Austinburg on Sunday night and fatally shooting Peterson, a former Holmes High School football standout and prom king, Jones and Sanders were vague except to say that there was an ongoing feud between two factions of youth that resulted in the violent end.

Neither Jones nor Sanders chalked the crime up to gang activity. "We don't have much in the way of gangs in Covington," Sanders said.

"We don't have your basic types of gang activity you see in other metropolitan cities," Jones concurred. 

It is known that the six suspects and the victim all knew each other and many of the suspects were friends with the victim on social media. That raised the question Tuesday on whether retaliation can be expected.

"If we were concerned (about retaliation) we wouldn't be doing our job," Jones said. He said that investigators have helped to mitigate that possibility through dialogue with associates of those involved.

"It does help us in bringing hope that this is the end of this incident."

Story by Michael Monks, editor & publisher of The River City News

Photo: Chief Spike Jones and Commonwealth's Attorney Rob Sanders address the media on Tuesday/RCN