TACOMA, Wash. - A promising and bright young man was tragically shot and killed while attending a birthday party in late September. On Friday, at the Pierce County Courthouse, his accused killer faced a judge for the first time.
29-year-old Justin Coleman faces four counts in the alleged murder of 17-year-old Damoni Nelson back on September 28th.
According to prosecutors Coleman faces two 2nd degree murder charges, one count of a drive-by shooting, and another count of unlawful possession of a firearm.
Coleman pleaded not guilty to those charges on Friday afternoon.
Nelson was a promising and bright young man, according to friends. He was a star football player at Federal Way High School and a bright student with 3.4 GPA.
Family, friends and former coaches and teachers held a vigil for Nelson earlier this week.
In a statement to Q13, Federal Way High School Principal, Dr. Matt Oberst said: "Our Eagle community is saddened by the tragic loss of one of our students. Our hearts go out to his family and loved ones who are grieving the loss of someone known in our school community as an outstanding scholar, athlete, and friend to all. Damoni excelled in and outside the classroom, taking the most challenging advanced courses offered in math and science and was a standout athlete in football and track. We'll remember Damoni for the smile always had on his face, pushing everyone to be their best."
It was on September 28th, when according to police probable cause documents, Nelson was attending a birthday party at the Gravelly Lake Town Homes off of the 13000 block of Pacific Highway SW in Lakewood.
In the early morning hours, shots rang out and Nelson was shot as he sat in the passenger seat of a car. According to investigators, a friend tried taking Nelson to a hospital, but he died a short time later.
Investigators believe that Nelson was not the intended victim that night. According to documents, investigators believe it was Nelson's cousin who was the target and this was a case of mistaken identity.
Investigators used cell phone tracking and surveillance video in this case.
Coleman was charged and booked on $1.5 million dollars bail. Prosecutors in court said Coleman presented a flight risk because of past criminal history, which includes unlawful possession of a firearm conviction in 2013 and 2018, a robbery conviction in the 2nd degree, and criminal history out of Mississippi, according to prosecutors.