Man charged with starting fight that led to fatal shooting of off-duty firefighter

A Monticello man appeared in court for the first time Tuesday on charges stemming from a shooting that killed an off-duty firefighter earlier this month.

Marquise Trevone Hammonds-Ford, 28, is charged with first-degree riot, machine gun possession and gun possession by a prohibited person. His bail was set at $1 million or $800,000 with conditions.

According to Minneapolis police, officers were called to the 900 block of Cedar Avenue South at around 12:40 a.m. on May 5 after callers reported gunfire and at least two people shot. There, they found a man suffering from a gunshot wound to the chest. That man, later identified as 40-year-old Joseph Johns, was pronounced dead at a hospital.

Johns, a firefighter for both the Eden Prairie and Eagan fire departments, was with a group celebrating the 19th anniversary of the Tru Breed Motorcycle Club, friends say.

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Charging documents state that, as that celebration went on, two groups of men — one out in front of a bar and another across the street — got into a fight that started after Hammonds-Ford yelled, provocatively pointed a gun and fired shots above the heads of the men in the ground outside the bar.

After those gunshots were fired, a criminal complaint states that several people in both groups started shooting at each other, catching Johns in the crossfire as he directed traffic outside the bar. However, it’s still unclear who actually shot Johns.

The complaint adds that Hammonds-Ford is a “well-known member” of the “Highs” street gang in north Minneapolis. One of his associates was also struck during the shootout and was later dropped off at a hospital with injuries that weren’t considered life-threatening.

In total, officers recovered 63 discharged cartridge casings in the area, and testing indicated that at least seven guns were fired in the shootout, court documents state. Hammonds-Ford is accused of using the lone 10 mm gun with an auto sear, and investigators found 16 casings from a 10 mm gun in the area.

He’s also got prior convictions for threats of violence and illegal gun possession and was on parole for the most recent case, the documents add.

His next court hearing is scheduled for June 10.

Johns was honored with a procession last week.