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Police look for tie between killing of activist, another man

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Authorities are investigating the death of a Missouri man who implied on social media last month that he was involved in the killing of a community activist with a criminal record.

Columbia police said they are looking into a possible connection between the deaths of 20-year-old Deonte Gainwell, whose body was found early Thursday, and that of Ahmonta Harris, who was killed on Nov. 24. But police declined to say whether Gainwell’s death was retaliatory, The Columbia Daily Tribune reports .

The Boone County Sheriff’s Department said previously in a news release that Harris had been attempting to rob a home near Columbia when an armed 20-year-old killed him, an explanation that Harris’ family and friends rejected.

“We don’t accept it,” Shauntel Franklin, Harris’s longtime girlfriend and mother of his child said in late November. “They can say what they want, we don’t accept it. We know who he is and what he was.”

The findings of the investigation were turned over to prosecutors to review. Amid that review, Gainwell defended himself from accusations about the shooting death in a Dec. 5 Facebook post, writing that Harris “shouldn’t have been in my momma’s house” and that he was found dead with “gloves on, blacked out outfit and a mask and gun next to his body.”

Gainwell added: “Stop slandering my name. Buddy got caught with his hand in the wrong cookie jar.”

Harris had past convictions for assault and property damage. But Harris also frequented attended community meetings, where he urged youths to stay away from violence. He was known for organizing an event dubbed the “Fireworks War” in which people battled with roman candles and whatever else they stockpiled before the Fourth of July holiday. Harris described the event as a way to bring people together, but law enforcement decried it as dangerous.

Gainwell’s death isn’t the only instance of violence to follow Harris’ death. Gunfire erupted during the funeral for Harris. Prosecutors have charged an 18-year-old with unlawful use of a weapon in the incident.

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Information from: Columbia Daily Tribune, http://www.columbiatribune.com

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