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Man Sentenced In FAMU Student Murder

By: Jennifer Milton, Jill Chandler, Julie Montanaro Email
By: Jennifer Milton, Jill Chandler, Julie Montanaro Email
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UPDATED
By Julie Montanaro
December 12, 2013

A Tallahassee man is headed to prison for killing a FAMU student in a botched drug deal.

Brandon Wells was sentenced to 35 years in prison today for the murder of Rasheed Lasaki.

Lasaki was shot and left for dead in the parking lot of the Greystone Place apartments in January 2011.

Prosecutor John Hutchins says Lasaki's father spoke in court today about the loss of his youngest son, who was slated to graduate from college that spring.

Wells' attorney promises an appeal.


By Julie Montanaro
August 23, 2013

Tallahassee, FL - A jury deliberated for three and a half hours before finding Brandon Wells guilty of second degree murder.

He'll be sentenced October 17th.


UPDATED 8.23.2013
by Julie Montanaro

The jury came back at 5:15 and told the judge it could not reach a verdict. The judge sent jurors back to keep trying. We'll let you know if they reach a verdict or if this ends with a hung jury.


UPDATED 8.23.2013
by Julie Montanaro

The jury started deliberating at 3:30 this afternoon. We'll keep you posted on a verdict.


UPDATED 8.23.2013
by Julie Montanaro

A Tallahassee man is awaiting a verdict. Will jurors find him guilty of murdering a FAMU student? Or believe his claims of self defense?

Our cameras were the only ones rolling when Brandon Wells took the stand.

"I asked him does he have the product and I go in my pokcet and pull out my money and while I'm pulling out my money I look over and he's putting a gun in my face," Wells testified.

Brandon Wells took the stand and told the jury what happened the night Rasheed Lasaki was shot and left for dead in the parking lot of the Greystone Place apartments in January 2011.

Wells contends he met Lasaki in a club a week earlier and had arranged to meet him to buy an ounce of marijuana for 400 dollars. He claims when he pulled the money out - it was Lasaki who tried to rob him.

"... and my being scared and panicking, I wrestled the gun away from him," Wells said.

"And how did ... did it go off?" defense attorney Clyde Taylor asked.

"Yes, sir."

"How many times did it go off?"

"To my recognition, four times. Bam, bam. Bam, bam," Wells said.

Yet prosecutors contend this self defense story is a complete 180.

When questioned by police Wells denied ever meeting Lasaki that day and could not explain why Lasaki's blood wound up on the drivers side door and both the marijuana and the gun disappeared.

"You had the gun in your hand," prosecutor John Hutchins said on cross examination. "You had to have it in your hand when you were firing those five shots into the victim, so where did the gun go?"

"I don't know sir," Wells said.

"What did you do with the weed that you took from the victim?"

"There was no weed."

"So there was no weed and you don't know where the gun is, they both just magically disappeared?" Hutchins asked.

Wells denied having any intention of robbing or killing Lasaki and testified he did not bring a gun to the drug deal.


UPDATED 8.23.2013 10:50am
by Julie Montanaro

Brandon Wells is now on the stand.

Wells says he met Rasheed Lasaki at a nightclub about a week before the shooting.

Wells says Lasaki was smoking pot in the club and he asked if he was selling what he was smoking. He says he made plans to meet Lasaki to buy an ounce of marijuana which he says costs between $325 and $450.

Wells says he backed in his SUV next to Lasaki's car. He says Lasaki's car was still running and it had dark tinted windows.

He testified Lasaki asked him to get into his car, but he couldn't see into the dark windows and so he asked Lasaki to get into his car.

Wells testified that he reached into his left front pocket and pulled out his money. When he looked up he says Lasaki had a pistol pointed at him.

Wells says he panicked and started wrestling for control of the gun. I was trying to defend myself, he said, and in the struggle he says the gun went off four times.

Wells says Lasaki got out of of the car and he drove away with the door open.

He says he was not truthful when questioned by police because he was scared.

Wells testified he only intended to buy marijuana that day, not to rob anyone or to kill anyone.

If the door was open during this transaction. How did the bullet hole get in the door? Prosecutors asked on cross examination. "I don't know sir," Wells said.

Prosecutor John Hutchins hammered Wells on doing a "180" since his interview with police. Wells told police he didn't have a job or enough money to buy a new cell phone, but prosecutors asked how he had $400 to buy pot.

Prosecutors asked if Wells pushed Lasaki out of the car. He said no. Then how did his blood get on the driver side door? Prosecutors asked. "I don't know," Wells said.

Where's the gun? The prosecutor asked. "I don't know." If you had the gun in your hand and shot him five times, where's the gun? Prosecutors asked. "I don't know," he said.

The defense rested its case as soon Wells finished testifying.


UPDATED 8.22.2013 10am
by Julie Montanaro

The state has rested its case.

Brandon Wells intends to testify.


UPDATED 8.22.2013 7:05pm
by Julie Montanaro

A Tallahassee man is on trial for shooting and killing a FAMU student during a botched drug deal.

Brandon Wells is accused of firing five times, but defense attorneys suggest he may have fired in self defense.

Brandon Wells is accused shooting FAMU senior Rasheed Lasaki five times and leaving him to die in a parking lot. Minutes later officers arrived to find Lasaki with his eyes open - and no pulse.

Prosecutors say there's a bullet hole in the passenger side door of the Ford Escape Wells was driving that day and an FDLE analyst says Lasaki's blood is in there too.

Who was the major contributor of "the DNA that was found on the interior panel?"

"It matched the DNA profile from Rasheed Lasaki," FDLE Crime Lab Analyst Sue Livingston testified. She went on to say the likelihood that it was someone else was one in 28 quadrillion.

Lasaki was found in the parking lot of the Greystone Place Apartments off Jackson Bluff Road in January 2011.

Officers on the stand Thursday say Wells' number popped up repeatedly in calls and texts on the victim's phone that day. A phone Wells claimed fell in the toilet the same night.

In a videotaped statement to police, Wells denied meeting up with Lasaki at all.

"So ya'll never met up?"

"No."

"Any reason why his DNA might be in that truck?"

"No."

The same DNA analyst who found Lasaki's blood in the SUV, did not find Wells DNA inside.

Prosecutors say surveillance video from the convenience store across the street clearly shows the black SUV leaving the apartment complex just before police arrived.

Jurors may never get to hear the testimony of a friend. He claims Wells came home and told him that Lasaki tried to rob him and the two wound up struggling over the gun. The judge ruled that testimony inadmissable.

Defense attorneys contend their defense was irreparably harmed by that decision and moved for a mistrial, but the judge denied that request.

It's not clear yet whether Wells intends to take the stand himself.

Testimony in the murder trial is expected to continue Friday.


UPDATED 8.22.2013 11am by Julie Montanaro

Glenn Lewis testified that he is Brittany Richardson's boyfriend and a friend of Brandon Wells.

He testified that Wells asked to borrow Richardson's SUV that afternoon and he said okay. When Wells brought it back between 5:30 and 6:00pm that same day he said "you're going to be mad."

Lewis testified that Wells showed him the bullet hole. He says Wells told him that he had gone to "buy some weed" and the guy tried to rob him and they struggled over a gun and it went off.

Lewis testified only before the judge and not the jury because attorneys are arguing over the admissibility of his testimony.

Judge Caloca-Johnson ruled the statement is not admissible and jurors will not hear it.


UPDATED 8.22.2013 10:45 am by Julie Montanaro

One of Brandon Wells friends testified that he called her soon after the murder to let her know he was switching phones.

"He told you be had gotten into some (expletive) didn't he?" The prosecutor asked Keyonda Washington.

"Yes," she said.

Another friend, Brittany Richardson, testified she let Brandon Wells drive her black Ford Escape anytime he wanted to.

Richardson testified Wells had her SUV the day of the murder. She testified she was at work that afternoon. She says there were no bullet holes in her car when she left, but there were bullet holes in it when she got back.


UPDATED 8.22.2013 10:15 am by Julie Montanaro

Tallahassee Police Officer Maria Mercurio was the first officer on the scene.

The officer testified she found Rasheed Lasaki lying on the ground right in front of his own car. It was still running.

Lasaki's eyes were open, she said, but he did not respond and he had no pulse. He appeared to have been shot.

Paramedics got there moments later, she said, and as they started to load Lasaki in the ambulance they noticed a bullet literally lying on his groin. She put gloves on and collected it as evidence.

Prosecutors passed a bag with the bullet in it to jurors to see.

Officer Mercurio says she also was doing surveillance near Wells home on January 25th and saw the black Ford Escape spotted at the crime scene. Mercurio says she called for marked patrol units who then stopped the SUV with Wells inside.


UPDATED 8.22.2013 10 am by Julie Montanaro

A Tallahassee man accused of shooting and killing a FAMU student during a drug deal is now on trial for it.

Brandon Wells is accused of shooting Rasheed Lasaki at the Greystone Apartments on January 17, 2011.

Prosecutors say Wells robbed Lasaki and shot him five times. Prosecutors say Lasaki was shot in the arm, shoulder, back and abdomen. They believe Lasaki was shot after getting into Wells car.

Prosecutors say there is a bullet hole in Wells car and Lasaki's DNA in his car too.

Prosecutors say Lasaki owned a 9mm gun and was also killed with a 9mm gun, but claim an expert will prove he was not killed by a bullet fired from his own gun.

Prosecutors say they will prove Wells killed Lasaki during a robbery and refute any claims of self defense. "Five shots is not self defense," prosecutor John Hutchins said.

Defense attorneys reserved the right to make an opening statement later.


UPDATED 3.9.2011 3:30pm by Julie Montanaro

Brandon Wells was indicted on one count of first degree murder.


UPDATED 3.9.2011 by Julie Montanaro

A grand jury is meeting today to review evidence against 21 year old Brandon Wells. Prosecutors are seeking a murder indictment against him for the January shooting death of Rasheed Lasaki.

Lasaki was shot and killed in the parking lot of the Greystone Apartments in what police say was a botched drug deal.


UPDATED 1.26.2011 BY AMY LONG

Beth Ann Vanderwarker says her son witnessed the death of Rasheed Lasaki from this window. "He told us about the suspect who shot him. police say he was the best witness they had because no one else would talk."

That suspect police would later find was 21-year-old Brandon Wells. Police reports show Wells was arrested Tuesday night for driving without a valid license.

The vehicle he was driving also matched the description of the black SUV caught on surveillance camera from a nearby gas station leaving the Greystone apartment complex January 17, the day of Lasaki's murder.

Scottie Bass who frequents the area says Lasaki was taken before his time. "The guy was trying to do something with his life so who ever would take somebody's life like that needs to deal with the consequences."

Arrest papers show, police searched the black SUV he was driving and found a bullet hole in the passenger door and blood stains and spatter inside.

Police say a cell phone found in Lasaki's jacket pocket linked him to Wells through a series of text messages earlier in the day, messages that ended just ten minutes before the murder. Arrest papers say the messages indicated Lasaki was going to sell drugs.

"It's really quiet most of the time. I was really shocked when it happened." says Bass.

Police reports say in an interview with officers, Wells admitted he was supposed to meet Lasaki to buy drugs But during the interview when Wells was asked if they were going to find the victim's blood in the vehicle and he stated that he wanted to speak to a lawyer.


UPDATED 1.26.2011 by Julie Montanaro

Tallahassee Police have arrested 21 year old Brandon Wells for the murder of FAMU student Rasheed Lasaki.

Wells was arrested during a traffic stop last night at the corner of Devra and Scenic Drives.

According to arrest papers, police later searched the black SUV and found a bullet hole in the passsenger door and blood stains and spatter on the headliner and kick plate.

Arrest papers say police did not find any bullet casings on the scene at the Greystone Apartments, and police cannot rule out that Lasaki was shot inside the SUV.

Arrest papers also indicate there is surveillance video of the black SUV both entering and leaving Greystone Apartments on the day of the murder. It was taken by cameras at the Petro gas station across the street from the complex.

According to arrest papers, police were able to tie Wells to the murder after tracking a series of calls on the victim's cell phone.

Police say a series of text messages indicate Lasaki was going to sell drugs and the last message was sent at 5:05pm the day of the murder.

Tallahassee Police say they got a call at 5:15 about a pedestrian struck by a vehicle at the Greystone Apartments, but when they arrived they discovered Rasheed Lasaki had been shot.

Arrest papers indicate that police conducted surveillance on Wells' home January 23rd, 24th and 25th. Wells was arrested at about 11:30 Tuesday night.

Arrest papers indicate in an interview with officers last night, Wells admitted he was supposed to meet Lasaki to buy drugs, but told officers he never did. Arrest papers say he asked for an attorney when questioned about the blood in his SUV.


UPDATE 1-25-11 6:26 PM by Jill Chandler

The murder of a FAMU student remains unsolved one week later,
and today his fellow Rattlers gathered to say good bye.

Rasheed Lasaki was shot and killed last Monday in an apartment complex off of Jackson Bluff road. The senior Criminal Justice major was 25-years-old.

Hundreds of students came to honor his memory and support the family at his memorial on FAMU's campus.

As Rasheed Lasaki's family entered the Perry-Paige auditorium, candles lit up the room, jazz music played, and tears filled nearly every eye in the house.

"We're all rattlers, and when we all come together, no matter if we knew him or not, we all had a united feeling for him." said FAMU student, Faith Grant.

Students said that united feeling is one of hope, love and a lot of peace. But like the weather outside, the mood on campus was a gloomy one.

Crystle Lewis had class with Rasheed. She said, " I guess we're mourning because of Rasheed, it just so happened to rain today ... it didn't rain yesterday."

Rasheed 's brother spoke at the memorial. He said he wants people to celebrate Rasheed's life rather than mourn his death.

"He's in a better place, but it won't be the same around campus without him," said classmate Sierra Pearson.

And while friends, family and classmates reminisce about the man they lost, they're also looking for answers.

Pearson said she think justice will prevail. She said, "It's a bad feeling inside, someone knows something. It's just a matter of time."

Ricardo Dyall was friends with Rasheed he said, "We don't ever want to have a situation like this being not solved."

No arrests have been made in connection with Rasheed's death.
We spoke with Tallahassee Police Tuesday, and they are still not releasing any new details of their investigation.

Anyone with information about the homicide should call Crime Stoppers at 574-TIPS.


UPDATE 1-24-2011 2:15 pm

Memorial Service for FAMU Student Rasheed Lasaki

Tallahassee, FL - Florida A&M University’s Office of Student Activities, Student Government Association and the Juvenile Justice Club have planned a memorial service to honor the life of FAMU student Rasheed Lasaki for Tuesday, January 25, at 11 a.m. in the Perry-Paige Auditorium on FAMU’s campus.

Lasaki was a senior majoring in criminal justice in the College of Arts and Sciences from Opa Locka, Fla.


UPDATE 1-19-2011 12:11 am

Authorities are still investigating the shooting of a local college student who was gunned down outside a Tallahassee apartment complex.
Shocked, stunned, and saddened are all words fellow students on campus are using to describe their reaction when they heard about the death of fellow student Rasheed Lasaki who police say was shot and killed Monday night (1-17)

India Oatts, a friend of Lasaki, says, "I was really sad about it like I couldn't believe it because like I said I had just talked to him that same day at 2:00 o'clock."

Two hours later Tallahassee police investigators say India Oatts' good friend 25 year Rasheed Lasaki was gunned down in the Greystone Place Apartments on Jackson Bluff road just after five pm Monday. 1-17
Lasaki was a senior studying criminal justice at Florida A&M University.

"He was a sweet genuine person, he stayed to himself, he kept a small circle of friends. Like I couldn't believe it happened to him because he wasn't that type of a person."

Authorities are releasing few details as to a motive, suspect or other evidence they have collected. But investigators say they do believe Lasaki was targeted and they don't believe this was a random crime.
Neighbors say its normally a quiet complex.

Demetrius Rice, a Greystone Place resident, says, "It's kind of disturbing that there is no suspect in the case. It makes you like look twice when your getting ready to leave your house or when your getting out of the car."

"I just hope they find the person who ever did this..he will be missed."

Oatts told WCTV, Lasaki is from the Miami area and she doesn't know how his family is coping, but she says a memorial is in the works. We'll let you know when a time and date are set


Updated 6:44pm by Jennifer Milton

"I'm upset that it was a 25-year old college student, that's very sad 'cause he was trying to go somewhere in life, he was in college, and he was young," said Erica Cleary.

Erica Cleary lives a hop, skip and a jump away from where Rasheed Lasaki was shot to death. The senior criminal justice major at Florida A and M University, also known as "juice" to close friends, was gunned down at the Greystone Place Apartment complex on Jackson Bluff Road Monday night.

The expecting mother moved into an apartment across the street several months ago, but now she is thinking twice about where she'll raise her baby.

"I don't want crime and my child to be anywhere near each other, it's nerve-wracking just to know that it happened," said Cleary.

Homicide detectives and forensic units scoured the complex for clues that could help them find out who pulled the trigger. For now, the meaty details about that fatal night are scarce, but police do believe Lasaki was the intended target. Do police have a suspect? What was the motive? What was Lasaki doing at the apartment complex? All questions that remain unanswered.

FAMU student Shanine Reece didn't know Lasaki personally but says losing a fellow rattler hits too close to home.

"He had his mind like, on a goal like, to achieve more and for someone to take his life after that, that shouldn't have happened," said Reece.

Authorities have not disclosed when new details about the shooting will be released but they do ask anyone with information to call Crime Stoppers at 574 TIPS or the Tallahassee Police Department at 891-4200.


[UPDATE] 1-18 11:30AM --

TPD Release:

Last night, at approximately 5:15PM, the Tallahassee Police Department responded to a reported shooting at 2614 Jackson Bluff Road (Greystone Apartments). Upon arrival, officers located 25 year-old Rasheed Ola-Seyi Lasaki, who had been shot. Rasheed Ola-Seyi Lasaki was taken to Tallahassee Memorial Hospital, where he succumbed to his injuries.

The initial investigation has not established a definitive motive for the homicide, but investigators believe Rasheed Ola-Seyi Lasaki was the intended victim.

Anyone with information about this crime is asked to contact the Tallahassee Police Department at (850) 891-4200 or Crime Stoppers at (850) 574-TIPS (8477). Remember, Crime Stoppers does not want your name, just your information. You could be eligible for a cash reward.


Updated 12am 1-18

"I was just in my room and went out into the living room and I seen the ambulance truck and everything, so when I seen the cops running to the back and I looked out my room window and I seen him, I was like, when did this happen?," said Akilah Charles.

Akilah Charles was shocked and disturbed when she saw a crime scene and a lifeless body just feet away from her front door.

"My heart was beating really fast, that's my first time ever seeing a dead body."

Tallahassee Police officers say a person was shot to death at the Greystone Place Apartment Complex on Jackson Bluff Road around 5 o'clock on the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. 1-17

Reporter Jennifer Milton: "Were you able to see if it was a male or a female?"
Akilah Charles " It was a male, a black male."

At this point investigators have not confirmed the gender or identity of the victim and they haven't breathed a word about a possible suspect or motive.

Michael Jerome has lived at Greystone Place for nearly a decade and says the neighborhood is normally peaceful.

"I've never had any problems, nobody's ever broke into my apartment, nobody's ever broken into my truck," said Jerome.

"It's quiet, everybody minds their business, nobody bothers you, they see you outside, they'll say 'hey how are you' and keep on going," said Charles.

Again, investigators are remaining tight lipped about the shooting but we'll update this story on WCTV.TV and Eyewitness News as soon as more details become available.


Tallahassee, FL -

Nearly a dozen Tallahassee police cars are on the scene of an incident on Jackson Bluff Road.

A shooting happened around 5 pm this evening at Greystone Place Apartment Complex near Mabry Street.

Police on scene are being tight-lipped about exactly what happened although officials have confirmed one person is dead.

We have a crew on scene and will bring you more details as they become available.

Stay tuned to Eyewitness News and WCTV.tv for the latest.


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