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Witness testifies at Iowa man's murder trial that gang activity may be linked to shooting


FORT DODGE, Iowa — The shooting of a teenager at a party in 2011 may be linked to local gang activity, a witness testified in the murder trial of a Fort Dodge man.

Cierra Shivers, also of Fort Dodge, made the comments Wednesday during the trial of 28-year-old Derrick McElroy, the Messenger reported ( She said there was a feud between two gangs in the area, and that McElroy was involved in one of them.

McElroy is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Brandyn Preston, who was shot in the neck during a bonfire party in May 2011. Preston survived the shooting but was paralyzed from the shoulders down. Police say his death in January 2012 was caused by the injuries.

Shivers, one of several witnesses who took the stand in Webster County District Court, said she was hosting the party on the night of the shooting. She described hearing sounds that she thought may be gunshots.

She also said McElroy was a member of a local gang that was in a feud with another local gang. Under cross examination she added that she did not know what the feud was about, or whether McElroy was involved.

Prosecutors say McElroy shot a gun into the backyard party.

"No evidence shows that the bullet was meant to hit Brandyn Preston," Jennifer Benson, assistant Webster County attorney, said in her opening statement. "You'll hear evidence that the bullet was fired, intending to shoot someone, anyone at the party, and, unfortunately, Brandyn was the one who was hit."

McElroy has pleaded not guilty. His attorney, Charles Kenville, said another man is responsible for the shooting.

"There was no other real suspect during those initial months of the investigation. Mr. McElroy's name is not even brought up."

Testimony was scheduled to resume Thursday.

Information from: The Messenger,

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