MIAMI (AP) – A grand jury will consider whether to bring formal murder charges against the son of a Canadian diplomat who police say was involved in a drug-related shootout that killed his brother and another teenager, a Florida prosecutor said Wednesday.
Assistant State Attorney Marie Mato said after a brief hearing that the grand jury could decide to charge 15-year-old Marc Wabafiyebazu as an adult. His attorney, Curt Obront, said Wabafiyebazu will plead not guilty to any charges that are filed.
“We will be defending these charges,” Obront told reporters.
Marc Wabafiyebazu was arrested after the shooting deaths of his 17-year-old brother, Jean, and 17-year-old Joshua Wright. Police say the Wabafiyebazu brothers intended to rob an alleged drug dealer of two pounds of marijuana when something went wrong. The alleged dealer, 19-year-old Anthony Rodriguez, was wounded in the arm and also faces felony murder charges.
Under Florida law, people can be charged with felony murder if they were involved in a crime that leads to a killing – even if a person didn’t participate directly in the killing. Police also say Marc Wabafiyebazu threatened to shoot a detective in the head after his arrest, which would be another felony count.
The Wabafiyebazu brothers’ mother is Roxanne Dube, a longtime Canadian diplomat who recently became general consul in Miami. Dube attended the hearing Wednesday but did not speak with reporters.
Marc Wabafiyebazu spoke only to answer a few questions from Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Angelica Zayas, who set an April 20 hearing on the results of the grand jury’s work.
“How are you doing this morning?” Zayas asked the boy at one point.
“I’m doing fine,” he responded.
“Don’t say anything to anybody about this case,” the judge warned.
According to police reports, the Wabafiyebazu brothers – who had only recently relocated from their father’s home in Ottawa, Canada, to South Florida to be with their mother – took their mother’s personal vehicle to the alleged drug meeting. The personal vehicle carries diplomatic plates, but authorities say Marc Wabafiyebazu is not protected by diplomatic immunity.
Police say Rodriguez brought the marijuana – worth less than $5,000 – and negotiations began. Marc Wabafiyebazu said he was waiting outside in his mother’s car while his older brother went inside “to conduct the rip-off,” according to a police report.
“In the process of that rip-off, several shots were fired inside the residence,” killing Jean Wabafiyebazu and Wright. Rodriguez was wounded along with a fourth person, 21-year-old Johan Ruiz, who was shot in the abdomen and is recovering.
Police say Marc Wabafiyebazu rushed into the house after hearing the gunshots, but exactly what he did after that is not clear. Police have also said the two dead teenagers apparently shot each other.
Authorities have not said where Jean Wabafiyebazu obtained a weapon or weapons they believe he brought to the residence.
Obront said Marc Wabafiyebazu has no prior criminal record.
“This is a tragic situation,” Obront said. “Our heart goes out to all of the families.”