VERO BEACH, Fla. — A former Sebastian River High School football player was acquitted of all charges, including first-degree murder, in the fatal shooting in Gifford in 2018.
On Friday, an Indian River County jury found Jamal Riggins Jr., 25, not guilty of first-degree murder with a firearm, attempted first-degree murder, four counts of attempted second-degree murder and possession of a firearm by a prohibited person.
On April 20, 2018, Riggins was accused of firing a .223-caliber rifle from a car on a crowd of young people gathered outside a home in the 4400 block of 25th Avenue in Gifford. Killed was 19-year-old Christard Lennard Hicks, of Fort Pierce.
Hicks was the only person struck with gunfire.
"Jamal Riggins was arrested as a result of witness statements corroborating physical evidence obtained by our detectives. It is a safer day in Indian River County now that Riggins is behind bars," Indian River County Sheriff Deryl Loar said in a statement at the time.
The trial began Monday and the jury deliberated for 48 minutes Friday.
“We certainly thought that there was a basis to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt from the state's perspective. There were three eyewitnesses,” Assistant State Attorney William Long told TCPalm. “What unfortunately hurts the case … is we had multiple witnesses who came forward with original information implicating the defendant (Riggins Jr.) and had previously testified to the same — either in statements to law enforcement or in other proceedings — who then did not testify during the trial.”
Added Long: “The absence of that testimony, in particular, one of the victims, Quinten Jones, was damning for our case, and created an issue which I can only guess is what the jury blocked on.”
Besides the fatal victim, Riggins Jr. also was accused of attempting to kill Vero Beach residents Akeemia King and Christopher Lee, and Maxina Titanna Timothee and Jacari King, both of Fort Pierce, spoke to investigators after the death.
Among the evidence: a black Chrysler was seen fleeing the scene and confirmed it belonged to Riggins Jr.’s cousin, Dominique Riggins, 35, of Vero Beach, according to arrest reports.
The firearm was never recovered, but inside Dominique Riggins' Chrysler, deputies reported finding a receipt for a .223-caliber KelTec rifle bought in Gifford Jan. 31, 2018. The weapon was the same caliber as bullets that killed Hicks and found in the home's walls, investigators noted.
In March 2019, Dominique Riggins was charged with accessory after the fact in Hicks' murder. He’s pleaded not guilty and is being held at the Indian River County Jail.
At the time of the murder, Riggins Jr. was on five years' probation for sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl in the team room after getting ejected from a football game in November 2016. Riggins, who was 18 at the time, entered a plea deal that reduced the charge to child abuse.
Riggins Jr. earlier was charged with carrying a concealed firearm. He spent six months in jail on that charge and was released Jan. 26, 2018.
As a linebacker, he led the school's defense in 2015 and 2016. He had several scholarship offers that were revoked after he was charged.