A New York gang member will serve a life sentence for the 2016 murder of a Clark Atlanta University student.
A Fulton County jury convicted Devin Kingdom, 24, of murder in the shooting death of 25-year-old Cierra Ford. Ford, a communications major at Clark Atlanta, was shot in the head when several accused gang members broke into her boyfriend’s Sandy Springs apartment in November 2016.
Ford was a California native who wanted to be a journalist. She was a good student and an inspiration to other young women, her brother said.
“Cierra was intelligent, charismatic, and she had a vibrant sense of humor that resonated with her friends and family,” Clarence Ford said.
Her boyfriend, Tyrique Lobban, was shot three times and injured. Lobban was a leader of the same New York Gang, prosecutors said, and the men intended to kill him to remove him from his position.
Three accused gang members were arrested following Ford’s death and a fourth, Gregory Battle, is still on the run. Initially, police believed robbery was a motive. Kingdom was the first to be convicted.
Malik Ortiz also stood trial last week and was acquitted of the homicide. The jury was unable to reach verdicts on the remaining 12 counts, according to the Fulton County District Attorney’s office.
Joseph Clarke, another murder suspect, is still awaiting trial.
Prosecutors said the trouble started two years after the New York gang members relocated to Atlanta in 2014. They lived with Lobban in his apartment until infighting resulted in a leadership struggle.
Mug shots of (from left) Devin Kingdom, Malik Ortiz and Joseph Clarke, who were all charged in connection with the 2016 murder of Cierra Ford, an Atlanta college student. (Sandy Springs Police Department)
“The dispute between Lobban and the other four men came to a head in October of 2016 when Lobban asked Clarke, Ortiz, and Battle to move out of the apartment,” said Chris Hopper, the spokesman for Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard Jr. “Once they moved out of the apartment, the men made a decision to kill Lobban and remove him from his leadership position in the gang.”
In the deadly coup, the four allegedly entered the Sandy Springs apartment through an unlocked door with weapons drawn, the jury heard at trial.
They first encountered a roommate and another alleged gang member, Jabar Brady. Hopper said the men gave Brady, who was 19 at the time, a chance to live and he left the apartment.
Prosecutors intended for Brady to testify, but he killed himself in New York shortly before the trial, according to the DA’s office. He was considered one of the state’s key witnesses.
“The gravity of these violent deaths never seems to end,” Howard said of Brady’s death.
Ford and Lobban were shot when the group kicked in the door to Lobban’s upstairs bedroom and found them in bed, prosecutors said.
In addition to felony murder, Kingdom was found guilty of first-degree home invasion, aggravated assault, aggravated battery, first-degree burglary and possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony.
He was sentenced by Superior Court Judge Kimberly M. Esmond Adams to life in prison plus 10 years.
The jury apparently could not reach a conclusion on Ortiz’s involvement in the crime.
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