Metro Parks Officer James Spray and his wife Kim wept together on Wednesday moments after the guilty verdicts were read against two Kurdish Pride Gang members, one of whom nearly took the officer’s life in an incident at Edwin Warner Park two years ago.
KPG members Ako and Aso Nejad, who are brothers, were found guilty of conspiracy to commit murder and Ako Nejad was also found guilty of attempted second-degree murder of Spray.
“I’m relieved,” Spray said. “Justice was served.”
During the trial it was revealed that a bullet fired by Ako Nejad came within inches of Spray’s head while in his car in the park on the night of Aug. 4, 2006.
Spray had randomly driven up on Bushra Salih, who was allegedly used by the KPG members as bait to lure a drug dealer to the park. The alleged drug dealer, Darion Coleman, had earlier robbed Aso Nejad and authorities say the KPG members were apparently seeking retribution.
While Salih sat in the car, four others were waiting along the trees nearby, armed with handguns and a hunting rifle, according to testimony. Not knowing about the lurking gunmen, Spray approached Salih’s car. Salih sped away and while Spray followed, eight shots rang out, at least two of which struck his patrol car.
Spray and his wife became emotional when considering what could have been that night if he made even one different choice.
“This whole week has been very rough,” Spray said. “Almost losing your life is hard. I’m very happy with the verdict.”
Spray gave credit to Assistant District Attorney Rob McGuire for garnering the guilty verdicts against the Nejad brothers.
“Cops spend their lifetime protecting other people,” Spray said. “Very rarely does somebody go to bat for you and fight for you. Rob fought for us and fought for us and made the justice system right.”
Family members of the Nejad brothers wept openly when the guilty verdicts were read. The state had been seeking the more serious charge of attempted first-degree murder against Ako Nejad, but the jury chose to find him guilty of the less-serious attempted second-degree murder.
For the conspiracy charge, Ako and Aso Nejad are each facing 15-25 years in prison. For the attempted second-degree murder charge, Ako Nejad is facing 8-12 years.
“I understand the jury’s verdict,” McGuire said. “It’s always difficult to prosecute gang-related crime. So given the fact that both of these now are going to the penitentiary, it’s satisfying. What they did is dangerous and it put people’s lives in danger and I think that’s where they should be.”
The Nejad brothers are not the only two KPG-attached individuals facing conspiracy charges for the incident. Charges have also filed against three other members and those cases will be decided in the coming weeks, McGuire said.
Central to the state’s case was the testimony of Salih, who said Ako Nejad admitted firing the shots that could have killed Spray. The Nejad brothers’ attorneys, Paul Walwyn and Dumaka Shabazz, attempted to cast Salih as a crook looking to get a deal from the state.
McGuire said conspiracy charges are still possible against Salih.
McGuire said the evidence against the Nejad brothers, like the weapons left at the scene, cell phone records placing them at the park and a fingerprint lifted off a bag to latex gloves, corroborated Salih’s testimony.
Sentencing for the Nejad brothers will come Sept. 2, Judge Cheryl Blackburn said.