Two Bronx Men Sentenced In Manhattan Federal Court To 37 And 35 Years In Prison For Shooting Of Innocent Bystander
Joon H. Kim, the Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and James P. O’Neill, Commissioner of the Police Department for the City of New York (“NYPD”), announced that KEVIN STERLING, a/k/a “Lion,” was sentenced to 37 years in prison and ALONZO VERNON, a/k/a “Zoe,” was sentenced to 35 years in prison today for the non-fatal shooting of a young woman who was an innocent bystander to a drug-related shooting, and for related crimes. They were each sentenced today in Manhattan federal court by U.S. District Court Judge Lewis A. Kaplan, who presided over a three-week jury trial in April 2017 at which STERLING and VERNON were convicted on all counts in the controlling indictment.
Acting U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim said: “When a drug worker refused to pay a drug debt, Kevin Sterling and Alonzo Vernon hunted him down and Sterling shot at him, without any regard for his life or the lives of the innocent people nearby. One innocent bystander, a young woman in the wrong place at the wrong time, was shot and seriously injured, but thankfully lived. For their callous crimes, Sterling and Vernon will now serve lengthy prison sentences.”
According to the trial testimony and evidence as well as public court filings and statements made in connection with case:
STERLING and VERNON led a drug trafficking organization that brought crack cocaine and heroin from the Bronx to Ithaca, New York, to be sold at prices higher than the drugs would sell for in the Bronx. STERLING and VERNON recruited young men in the Bronx to sell drugs for them in Ithaca. Together with another member of the conspiracy, STERLING and VERNON provided drugs to their workers and collected their drug proceeds.
In about April or May 2015, VERNON informed one of their workers (“Victim-1”) that his money was “short” and that he owed more money. Victim-1 did not pay the claimed debt, and VERNON threatened to “f**** him up” as a result.
On the night of May 31, 2016, STERLING saw Victim-1 on the street. VERNON and STERLING followed Victim-1 to the area of 219th Street and Willett Avenue in the Bronx in a car driven by VERNON. Victim-1 was on a porch with a group of friends. Next door, a young woman (“Victim-2”) was outside with her friends.
STERLING exited the car and pointed a gun at one of the group. Sterling shouted “where’s Melo?” – the street name used by Victim-1 – and shot once at Victim-1. He missed Victim-1 and hit Victim-2 in the elbow instead. The bullet shattered her elbow and entered her side. STERLING went back to the car, and VERNON drove him away. Victim-2 tried to run away and collapsed bleeding while her friend tied a tourniquet around her arm.
STERLING, 38, and VERNON, 39, both of the Bronx, New York, were each convicted after trial of conspiring to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute 280 grams and more of crack cocaine and 100 grams and more of heroin; discharging a firearm in connection with that drug trafficking crime, and aiding and abetting the same; and being felons in possession of ammunition. In addition to their prison terms, STERLING and VERNON were each sentenced to 10 years of supervised release.
Mr. Kim praised the outstanding investigative work of the New York City Police Department and thanked the U.S. Marshals Service, the City of Ithaca Police Department, and the Cornell University Police Department for their assistance.