BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Authorities announced Thursday that murder and other charges have been filed against West Side Crips gang members in the shooting death of 5-year-old Kason Guyton.
Prosecutors charged Jonathan Rae Knight and Jeremy King with eight felonies stemming from the February 2017 shooting that killed Kason as he sat in the backseat of a car traveling on California Avenue.
Knight is in custody, and King remains at large.
The two men were indicted by a grand jury. District Attorney Cynthia Zimmer said the charges carry the possibility of the death penalty, but a decision has not yet been made whether to seek death.
Kason’s death stunned and outraged a community that experiences multiple homicides from gang violence each year, but rarely sees a child caught in the crossfire.
Zimmer said the Bakersfield Police Department’s dedication to the case never wavered.
The boy’s slaying spurred federal, state and local law enforcement officials to launch a months-long investigation into the West Side Crips gang that resulted in the arrests of 49 gang members or associates — including Knight — in late 2017 on charges unrelated to the killing.
Kason’s brother, 7 at the time, was wounded in the shooting but survived. The car they were traveling in was driven by their mother’s boyfriend, an East Side Crips gang member who is believed to have been the intended target. They had left Maya Cinemas and were returning home.
Knight has long been suspected of involvement in Kason’s death, and last month was one of 11 men arrested in connection with a barrage of gunfire in a southwest Bakersfield neighborhood where a gang member was celebrating a birthday.
In that case, occupants of a vehicle opened fire at a residence where the party was being held, according to court documents. A number of those attending the party, attended by numerous West Side Crips members, then returned fire.
Police found more than 60 spent shell casings at or near the residence. No injuries were reported, but bullets struck several houses and vehicles.
Both Knight and King have served time in prison on gang-related charges.