Teen admits guilt for his role in Liberty Twp. park shootout

A Cincinnati teen charged in a June shootout at a Liberty Twp. park has admitted guilt in the incident.

Romel Velasquez, 18, pleaded guilty Friday morning in Butler County Common Pleas Court to aggravated assault with a gun specification for shooting Zyquon Moody, of Hamilton, who allegedly shot and killed 18-year-old Antaun Hill Jr., during the June 10 incident in Liberty Park.

He faces up to 18 months in prison for the fourth-degree felony and an additional one year for using a gun in the commission of the crime. Judge Jennifer McElfresh set sentencing for Oct. 15.

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Velasquez was charged shortly after the shooting with murder, but that charge was dismissed when the investigation pointed to Moody as person who allegedly killed Hill.

A Butler County grand jury indicted Velasquez for second-degree felonious assault. That charge was lowered to aggravated assault in exchange for the plea. Velasquez’s trial was scheduled to begin Monday.

Velasquez has been held in the Butler County Jail since June in lieu of a $500,000 bond.

In June during arraignment, Velasquez’s attorney, David Washington, said his client “shot the shooter.”

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Washington said if what investigators said happened that night is true — that Moody fired the shot that killed Hill and Velasquez shot Moody — then Velasquez probably stopped “a bigger problem," more gun violence that night in the park.

Washington declined comment on Friday.

Butler County Prosecutor Michael Gmoser said Velasquez has taken responsibility for bringing a gun to a fistfight and causing injury. Moody fired shots, and when Valasquez heard gunfire, he pulled out his weapon and returned fire, according to Gmoser.

“You have this shootout at the OK Corral and there is evidence therefore that he (Velasquez) is operating under extreme stress brought on by provocation,” Gmoser said. “So ultimately he didn’t open fire because he wanted to be the one to shoot into a crowd and killed them or hurt somebody, therefore you have the consideration of self-defense as a possible ending in this.”

Velasquez confessed that he had a gun and made a choice to go to this “zone of danger” with that gun after a social media announcement about a “big fight” going down, Gmoser said.

“This plea says there is accountability so that everybody knows you don’t take a gun to a fist fight (and open fire),” Gmoser said.

Moody remains housed in the Butler County Jail in lieu of a $1 million bond awaiting trial in December. He is charged with murder and two counts of felonious assault.

Butler County Sheriff’s detectives and Fairfield Twp. police say the incident began with a previous theft of Hill’s cell phone and cash in Fairfield Twp. on June 7, and two groups met to fight in the park. Gunfire was reported about 10 p.m.

In addition to Hill and Moody, Zyshaun Johnson, 19, of Cincinnati, was also shot, but he recovered.

Hill was a recent Fairfield High School graduate and planned to play football at Independence Community College in Kansas.

ExplorePolice: Liberty Twp. fight that led to deadly shooting started with theft of cellphone, cash

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