Detective Tom Murphy, center, of the Lewiston Police Department and other local and state law enforcement officials went to several downtown Lewiston locations early Thursday to arrest three individuals in the murder last year of Donald Giusti. The young man being arrested in this photo was taken into custody a few feet from where Giusti was killed on Knox Street. Sun Journal photo by Russ Dillingham

LEWISTON — A local teen who told police he threw a rock into a crowd during a fight last summer that struck the head of a man who later died denied a manslaughter charge Thursday.

Emmanuel Knurunziza, 18, appeared in 8th District Court after he was arrested as a juvenile earlier in the day by Maine State Police in Limestone. He was 17 years old at the time of the fight. The felony is punishable in adult court by up to 30 years in prison.

In addition to Knurunziza, a 13-year-old boy and a 23-year-old man, both of Lewiston, were arrested early Thursday in downtown Lewiston in the June 2018 beating death of Donald G. Giusti near Kennedy Park. The two were charged with misdemeanor assault. The teens were taken to Long Creek Youth Development Center in South Portland.

Giusti, 38, died June 15 at Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston, three days after he was beaten on Knox Street.

A medical examiner determined the cause of death to be blunt-force trauma that included two “significant areas” of trauma to Giusti’s head and brain. Deputy Medical Examiner Lisa Funte also noticed a “patterned injury” on Giusti’s left shoulder, a broken clavicle and a fracture to one of his left rear ribs, according to the autopsy report.

Police secured a search warrant for a videotape of the June 12 melee that showed a man throwing a rock that struck a man identified as Giusti. Knurunziza later told police he had “thrown a rock towards a group of people during the fight,” and was told afterward the rock had struck Giusti in the head.

A witness identified for police not only a person who kicked Giusti in the area where he had suffered a broken clavicle, but also a person who kicked Giusti in the area of his rib cage where he suffered a fracture, according to an affidavit written by Maine State Police Detective John Kyle II.

Pierre Musafiri Androscoggin County jail photo

That person, Pierre Mousafiri, 23, of Lewiston was arrested and charged with misdemeanor assault and taken to the Androscoggin County Jail in Auburn.  He was released on $500 bail with a June court date. The crime is punishable by up to 364 days in jail.

Mousafiri also identified Knurunziza in video footage and told police he had thrown a rock that hit Giusti while he had been standing. He said Knurunziza had thrown a second rock while Giusti was lying down.

Mousafiri told a police detective he had kicked Giusti while he was lying in the street, identifying himself in the video and another person who was shown kicking Giusti in the clavicle.

A witness had told police he had seen 30 Somali and Congolese people fighting 15 white people at Knox and Spruce streets on the night of June 12. Seven police officers arrived at the scene at about 10:45 p.m., while the fight was in progress.

One of the officers had found Giusti lying in Knox Street and bleeding from a head wound. He was able to identify Giusti. A rock that had apparently struck him was lying next to his left leg, according to the affidavit.

Most of the people who were involved in the fight fled when police arrived and spoke with some of the witnesses.

One witness, who videotaped a portion of the fight, told police a “white guy” had been running backwards and had stumbled. After righting himself, “he was struck in the head with a brick, which caused him to fall to the ground.”

“After he fell, the Somali and Congolese group ‘stomped’ him for about 10 seconds, before they took off running,” Kyle wrote in his affidavit.

That witness said several people were armed with sticks, BB guns and a bat.

Authorities said the arrests were the culmination of several months of investigation, which included multiple interviews, a thorough review of physical and electronic evidence seized in the case and after consulting with the Maine Attorney General’s Office, the Office of Chief Medical Examiner, Androscoggin County District Attorney’s Office and the Juvenile Corrections Office.

Shortly after 6 a.m. Thursday, Lewiston and Maine State police split into teams and went to various locations downtown, searching for their suspects. One teen was taken out of an apartment building on Ash Street in handcuffs at about 6:30 a.m.

A second suspect was arrested minutes earlier at an apartment house near the corner of Knox and Birch streets. Police also went to a second Knox Street apartment building and one on Howe Street.

Both Lewiston arrests were made without incident.

The 18-year-old male was found in Limestone on Thursday morning by Maine State Police troopers assigned to Troop F in Aroostook County.

The June 12 brawl was said to have been the result of ongoing disputes between the two groups. Witnesses said the groups began fighting on Knox Street after teens in a car drove past the park and shot pellets and BBs at a group gathered there, striking several people.

Several members of the Kennedy Park group, including Giusti, chased the car to Knox Street, Sun Journal sources said.

In the days after the fight, several people insisted the attack on Giusti and his friends had been racially motivated, the result of tensions that had existed in and around the park since the end of winter.

Lewiston police responded to those allegations as the investigation got underway, confirming the group included an ethnic mix.

Police had said the investigation took longer than some because of the sheer number of people involved and because many were juveniles.

In the courtroom Thursday, Knurunziza sat next to his father, his hair braided and pulled back. He wore a blue-and-black windbreaker and faded jeans. An interpreter translated English to Lingala, a Bantu language. Three other members of his family were also seated in the courtroom.

His lawyer, Allan Lobozzo, entered a denial on Knurunziza’s behalf. The teen’s father must file a financial affidavit to determine whether Knurunziza qualifies for a court-appointed lawyer.

Lobozzo said the teen had never run afoul of the law.

“This is the first time he’s ever been in a courtroom in his life,” Lobozzo said.

A detention hearing was scheduled for later in the month. Meanwhile, Knurunziza will remain in custody at the South Portland facility.

Lewiston Mayor Kristen Cloutier released a statement Thursday praising the efforts of law enforcement officials:

“I would like to extend my thanks to the Lewiston Police Department, the Maine State Police, and the State Attorney General’s Office for conducting a thorough investigation into the events that resulted in the death of Donald Giusti.  This has been a long and complicated investigation, and it is my sincere hope that its conclusion will help bring closure to the members of the Giusti family and allow our Lewiston community to begin the process of healing and reconciliation.

“As the mayor of Lewiston, I hope that we will come together as a community to grieve and process our losses, but also to get to know our neighbors, whether longtime residents or newcomers, and build relationships that will strengthen our community’s bonds and prevent tragic events like this from happening in the future.

“We must make a concerted effort every day to relate to each other with civility and understanding and to reject that which would divide us. This will be hard and sometimes uncomfortable work, but I know we have the strength to confront it.  The safety and future of our community depend on it.”

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