HEMPSTEAD - A brawl between the families of a murder victim and his suspected killer broke out at the First District Court in Hempstead today.
Pedro Merchant, 20, was arraigned on murder charges in the shooting death of 17-year-old Dante Quinones. Merchant is accused of shooting Quinones seven times last Wednesday on Dartmouth Street in Hempstead.
Today’s altercation out started inside a courtroom when the two families exchanged words. About 100 people spilled onto the street as the fight broke out.
“I've never seen anything that insane in my life,” Michael Hart, of Merrick, told News 12 Long Island.
Six people were arrested, two of whom were injured and taken to area hospitals. Eleven court officers were hurt in the melee.
The court went into lockdown following the fight and nobody was allowed back into the courthouse for about an hour until order was restored. Police remained outside the courthouse to ensure there was no further fighting.
Merchant is being held without bail and is due back in court next week. Investigators haven’t revealed any suspected motives in the case, but Quinones’ mother told News 12 Long Island that Merchant and him were friends.
For extended Chopper 12 footage from above the scene, watch the clip to the left or click News 12 Extra on Optimum TV channel 612.