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Teen suspects testify against accused shooter

Israel Valdez appears in court on Feb. 8, 2019 in Grand Rapids, Mich.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Two of the teens charged in connection to the murder of an East Kentwood High School student testified against the accused shooter Friday.

Israel Valdez, 17, is one of five teens who have been charged in connection with the fatal shooting of 17-year-old James King.

King was killed Jan. 13 near 44th Street and Kalamazoo Avenue during what investigators say was supposed to be a marijuana sale. Police say Valdez was the one who pulled the trigger, hitting King once in the head.

On Friday, two of the teens charged in the case, Ahmed Hasan and Alanah Claflin-Gallagos, took the stand to testify against Valdez.

Claflin-Gallagos said she talked with Valdez the night before King’s murder about robbing someone for weed, but didn’t do anything that night.

She testified that Valdez messaged King on Facebook the next day to buy weed and arranged a meeting. Claflin-Gallagos said she called the robbery off and that Valdez agreed and said he had money.

Upon arriving to the meeting site, King got in a vehicle with five people.

“Israel said, ‘let me see the bag.’ It got quiet, sounded like fist fighting,” Claflin-Gallagos said. “I was about to turn my head and the gun went off.”

She said King then got pushed out of the vehicle and Valdez put the gun in a sewer nearby.

Hasan testified that he offered to get out of the vehicle, which Sims was driving, so King could get in and then get picked up later.

He said he heard gunshots from 50-100 meters away.

“They said (James King) hit Israel and there was an argument and that’s when the gun went off, that’s what they told me,” Hasan said.

During testimony, a Grand Rapids detective said Claflin-Gallagos and Valdez tried to destroy their phones by running one over and dunking another in a beverage.

However, detectives were able to recover cell phone data containing text messages between Valdez and Sebastian Quinones, and social media messages between Valdez and King.

“It’s quite evident in the messages that they are discussing getting a gun, bullets for a gun and they were gonna try to do something,” the detective said.

Claflin-Gallagos, Hasan, Valdez and Sims are all charged with open murder, assault with intent to rob and conspiracy to commit armed robbery.

Valdez’s mother, Jennifer Valdez, has been charged with lying to a peace officer in a violent crime investigation for allegedly telling investigators she didn’t know any of the teens and hadn’t talked to any of them.

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