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Suspect in teen’s murder also accused of shooting vehicle with his baby, child’s mother in it, say court documents

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GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) – One of the suspects accused of killing a Gulfport teen was in court Wednesday morning.

Johnte Pouerie, 21, went before a judge for his initial appearance. He and a 14-year-old suspect are each charged with murder in the death of 16-year-old LaZarius Smith.

Harrison County sheriff’s deputies were called to the bridge just south of Posey Bridge Road on Highway 15 on Dec. 17, 2021. There, they found the body of a young man reported to be wearing a black and red jacket, black Nike shirt, gray sweatpants and Nike slides.

The young victim was later identified through dental records as 16-year-old Smith. A medical examiner determined he died from a single gunshot wound to the head.

Two suspects were identified through witness interviews. According to the court documents, Pouerie and the juvenile suspect picked Smith up just before 1 pm on Dec. 17, with the intention of going to shoot guns. Investigators pointed to Instagram conversations between Smith and the juvenile confirming the pickup. Witnesses also saw Smith get into a white Hyundai Sonata driven by Pouerie at the time.

Phone records placed Pouerie in the area of the pickup location, then showed him traveling to the Posey Bridge, where the body was found.

Two witnesses reported seeing a white Hyundai Sonata with a Carmax tag parked at the bridge with three men standing in the open field near the tree line, which is the area where Smith’s body was found. One of those witnesses told investigators that two of the men were wearing black ski masks and black clothing. The witness said he thought it was suspicious so he pulled over to wait for the vehicle to drive by. The witness then followed the vehicle south into Biloxi where they lost him at a high rate of speed exiting onto Rodriguez Street.

Phone records were also able to place Pouerie’s cell phone in the area of Rodriguez Street around the time the witness claimed.

On Dec. 27, Pouerie was arrested on charges stemming from a shooting at Riverchase Park Apartments in Gulfport on Dec. 10. When he was arrested, the 14-year-old suspect was with him and the two were in Pouerie’s white Sonata with a Carmax dealership tag, matching the description provided by witnesses. Upon searching the car, authorities say they found a firearm and two black ski masks.

On Dec. 10, Pouerie is accused of firing multiple shots at a vehicle that contained his daughter and daughter’s mother. The child’s mother told police that she was going out to dinner with a man and told Pouerie about it. Pouerie then dropped the baby off at her apartment, telling her to take the child with her.

She put the baby in the Dodge Charger that her male friend was driving and they started to leave. After realizing her baby wasn’t buckled completely in, the car stopped and the mother began adjusting the car seat. While she was doing that, she told police Pouerie ran towards them yelling about the baby being in the car saying, “B****h, my baby better not be in that car.”

The child’s mother got back in the vehicle and, as they drove off, Pouerie fired multiple shots at the car.

In addition to being charged with murder in the death of 16-year-old LaZarius Smith, Pouerie is also charged with two counts of aggravated domestic violence and one count of aggravated assault for the Dec. 10 shooting. His bond, which was initially set at $1 million for the murder charge, was upped Wednesday to $1,150,000.

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