Rising Florida rap star YNW Melly shot two of his close friends dead and then with the help of another man tried to make it look like they had been the victims of a drive-by shooting, Miramar police said Wednesday.
YNW Melly, whose legal name is Jamell Demons, has been arrested and charged with two counts of first-degree murder in connection with the October 2018 shooting deaths of the men, aspiring rappers who had been described as his close friends.
Demons, is a 19-year-old rapper from Gifford, near Vero Beach, but who moved to Broward County as his music career began to take off.
Demons was the second person arrested in connection with the October 26 double slaying. Miramar police said Cortlen Henry, 20, has also been arrested and charged with two counts of first-degree murder.
In a post on YNW Melly’s official Instagram on Wednesday evening, a statement from the rapper said he was turning himself in.
The post continued:
“I want you guys to know I love you and appreciate every single one of y’all, a couple months ago I lost my two brothers by violence and now the system want to find justice.. unfortunately a lot of rumors and lies are being said but no worries god is with me and my brother @ynw.bortlen and we want y’all to remember it’s a ynw Family I love you @ynwsakchaser1 and 2ynwjuvy #freeus.”
The victims, Anthony Williams, 21, and Christopher Thomas Jr., 19, were shot dead in the early hours of October 26, 2018, and driven in a Jeep Compass at 4:35 a.m. to the emergency room entrance of Memorial Hospital Miramar.
Both Williams and Thomas had suffered multiple gunshot wounds and were pronounced dead at the hospital.
Police didn’t say where in South Florida the two men were shot.
According to a news release issued by Miramar police on Wednesday evening, Henry was the driver of the Jeep.
Police said Demons was the one who shot and killed Williams and Thomas.
The police press release didn’t say what precipitated the shooting.
But cops said Demons and Henry staged the crime scene — the Jeep Compass — to make it look like a drive-by shooting had taken place.
After Henry gave a statement to police, investigators noticed that Henry’s statement didn’t match the evidence they had discovered during the preliminary investigation, Miramar police said.
Henry was arrested in Houston last month and was extradited to Broward on Tuesday. He was booked into the main jail just before 10 p.m., police officials said.
No bond was set at Henry’s first court appearance Wednesday because both the state attorney and defense attorney were granted a 24-hour postponement to become more familiar with the case.
Williams and Thomas were last seen alive about 3:20 a.m. Oct. 26 in Fort Lauderdale before they arrived, fatally wounded, at the hospital later that morning, police said.
At the entrance to the emergency room, police cordoned off an area with yellow crime scene as they collected evidence from the dark gray Jeep that had a shattered rear window.
They also searched for evidence after closing part of the southbound Interstate 75 exit ramp to Miramar Parkway and a stretch of that road between the exit ramp near Dykes Road and the hospital on Southwest 172nd Avenue.
The shooting victims had recently moved from the Vero Beach area to Miramar, police said after the killings.
Williams, also known as YNW Sakchaser, and Thomas, also known as YNW Juvy, were said to have been lifelong friends of Demons’ and were also trying to forge their own rap careers.
Both were featured prominently in the “Melly” documentary video posted to YNW Melly’s YouTube page. At the end of the documentary, on-screen text notes that four days after the film was completed, “YNW Melly and his friends were the target of a drive-by shooting in Miami, Florida. YNW Juvy and YNW Sakchaser were killed.”
In the days after the killings, Demons’ Fort Lauderdale attorney Bradford Cohen said of his client, “He’s sad, he’s upset, obviously. Those were his best friends.”
In a tweet posted the day after the killings, Demons wrote in part, “They Took My Brothers From Me Over Jealousy I know y’all watching over me … and after, they wanna see me break down and stop or in jail or a box…”
Widely seen as one of the hottest young emerging talents in Florida’s thriving hip-hop scene, YNW Melly carved out a niche with his blend of sugary, pop-like hooks and hardcore street rapping. He had also recently collaborated with Kanye West.
His first official studio album, “We All Shine,” was released in January.
Staff writer Linda Trischitta contributed to this story