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Jury acquits 3 men charged with first-degree murder

Casey Grove

An Anchorage jury found three men not guilty in the shooting death of another man in a busy South Anchorage mall parking lot in 2009.

Dawud Johnson, Ajamu McCoy and Jerry Lynn Taylor Jr. were charged with first-degree murder and evidence tampering in the death of Joe Alfred Young Jr. Their month-long trial culminated Friday with the verdict announced in court about 6 p.m. Friday after eight or nine hours of deliberation.

Lawyers for the three men argued their clients shot Young, 23, in self-defense.

Prosecutors said the shooting was over a stolen necklace. With his dying words, Young told police a man named "Cole" had him killed.

Detectives later said Young had snatched a flashy medallion from the neck of a record producer and drug dealer named Naron "Cole" Celestine.

The shooting was retribution for the theft, police said.

Defense attorneys for Johnson, McCoy and Taylor said that Young ambushed the trio and they shot back to protect themselves.

Celestine is serving a 15-year federal sentence for conspiring to distribute cocaine.

The shooting happened in the middle of the afternoon outside the Sports Authority off the Old Seward Highway, in one of the city's busiest shopping areas.

Anchorage Daily News