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At issue in Westmoreland County drug shooting trial: Who robbed whom?

| Friday, July 12, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Demarco Lavalle Jackson

A Westmoreland County jury on Thursday heard a preview of a Jeannette man's defense to charges that he shot a friend in an attempted robbery when prosecutors played a tape recording of a police interview with the accused gunman.

Demarco “Loyal” Jackson, 25, claimed in the interview — 12 hours after the 3:30 a.m. shooting on Sept. 1 — that it was Dante Wiley Jr., 27, also of Jeannette, who pulled out a .45-caliber handgun that discharged and hit Victor Bailey, formerly of Trafford.

In the interview, Jackson claims that Wiley attempted to rob him of heroin and money he stored in a safe in his apartment, and the pair was “tussling” over control of the handgun when it fired.

This week jurors heard testimony from both Bailey and Wiley that it was Jackson who pulled the gun and shot Bailey in the back as he ran out of the apartment.

Both Bailey and Wiley testified that Jackson, who previously lived in Georgia and Pittsburgh, was attempting to rob them.

District Attorney John Peck is expected to conclude his case on Friday morning in Jackson's trial for aggravated assault, robbery and possession of heroin. Jackson's attorney, Jim Fox, will then present the defense.

Judge Al Bell has informed jurors that they likely will hear closing arguments and begin deliberations Monday.

After the tape was played, county detectives Robert Weaver and John Clark testified that Jackson kept “changing his story” during interviews.

Weaver said Jackson initially said he was standing next to a large radiator in Jackson's apartment. Then he claimed it was Wiley who was standing there.

Jackson said, “Mr. Wiley was in the apartment, counting money from his pocket, when Mr. Wiley pulled out a gun and said to give up everything in the safe,” according to Weaver.

Under cross-examination by Fox, Weaver said Jackson voluntarily told officers that he stored between 50 and 100 bags of heroin in the safe. Detectives testified that 96 stamp bags of heroin were subsequently confiscated from the safe, along with 0.17 of a gram of loose heroin.

Jackson “said he was keeping the safe in his apartment for a friend whom he wouldn't identify,” Weaver said.

Clark testified that he interviewed the victim four days later because Bailey had been sedated in Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh, where he was taken after the shooting. Bailey told jurors that he suffered nerve damage and had to learn how to walk again.

In his interview in the hospital, Bailey identified Jackson as the shooter.

Both Bailey and Wiley told police that Jackson shot Bailey when Wiley ran from the apartment because Jackson pulled out a gun.

Fox has not said whether Jackson will take the stand in his defense. His live-in girlfriend, Courtney Petty, who was in the apartment when the shooting occurred, is expected to testify for the defense.

Paul Peirce is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-850-2860 or ppeirce@tribweb.com.

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