FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Derrick Dennis Jr. apologized Monday morning to the family of the man he is convicted of murdering back in 2021.
Dennis, convicted of murder in January of the shooting death of Gery Rucker in September 2021, apologized to both families, his mother and the victim’s mother just before Allen Superior Court Judge David Zent handed him an 80-year sentence – 60 years for murder and another 20 for using a firearm in the commission of an offense.
But he was visibly upset as Rucker’s mother criticized him for making the choice he made that afternoon to fire a gun at her son, shooting him through a door at the Villages of Hanna.
Dennis became even more upset when Allen County Prosecutor and Chief Counsel, Tesa Helge, went through his criminal record and then his actions that afternoon calling him “the worst of the worst.”
Zent reminded him he’d get his chance to speak and when he did, he called his actions self defense.
“I did what anybody else would have did in that situation,” Dennis said.
His attorney, Robert Gevers, said Dennis intends to appeal.
On Sept. 14, 2021, around 2:30 p.m., police were called to a local hospital about a walk-in shooting victim.
Shortly before that, Rucker, 19, had showed up at an entry door at the Villages of Hanna wearing a ski mask, where Dennis was waiting. Dennis was dating a woman referred to as “Tuu Tuu,” the mother of Rucker’s baby, according to a probable cause affidavit.
At the time of Rucker’s arrival in a car with three other people, Tuu Tuu attempted to run over Rucker.
Rucker went to confront Dennis, standing behind the door. Dennis started shooting him through the front door and then stepped outside and “stood over Gery while continuing to fire the handgun at Gery,” the court documents said. Rucker was able to get up and run off as Dennis continued firing.
The confrontation was recorded on surveillance video, court documents said.
Rucker underwent surgery, but succumbed to his injuries. The coroner ruled that he died from multiple gunshot wounds to the chest.
But the story takes an unusual twist. Dennis’s mother, Deanna Williams, told WANE 15 that she was working in a hospital surgery unit the day Rucker was brought in. When she heard there was a gunshot victim, she quickly called her son, Dennis, to see if he was all right. She calls him Durand, his middle name.
At the hospital, she prayed over the victim, unaware that it was Dennis who shot him, said Williams who was the first to speak at the sentencing.
“I never thought I’d be in a courtroom, except for Judgment Day with Jesus at my side,” Williams told the court. “I’m so sorry. I pray for you all.” But she cautioned not to hate, likening it to poison.
For Nikia Tinker, Rucker’s mother, there was no consolation.
“I’ve got to deal with this for the rest of my life,” Tinker said. When someone is killed like this “you take a child away from his mother, a child away from his father. You take away everything he had. You take the opportunity to grow. Clearly he had a light on him that you chose to put out that day.”
As she went on, Dennis barely controlled his reflexive movements. His head and his shoulders jerked as Tinker told him karma was “real.”
Because of the choice Dennis made, Rucker’s son has experienced depression, Tinker said, without specifying his age, and it wasn’t wise to bring him to the courtroom.
“You get your father. His son, he will never know him,” Tinker said.
Dennis’ attorney, Gevers, asked the judge for mercy and the minimum years for murder in Indiana which is 45. That would be “almost a life sentence at 27 years old,” he said.
Prosecutor Helge went through the details of his juvenile criminal record and the facts that he had spent time in jail and at a prison in the Indiana Department of Corrections.
But as she went through the details of the afternoon, Dennis talked back to her when Helge called the shooting “brutal and predatory.” He watched his victim out of the window, Helge said, and continued to shoot at the car when he got in, pursuing them as he shot. He could have killed more people that day.
Although she called him “one of the worst offenders,” Zent disagreed.
Both sides went out in the hallway under the watchful eyes of court security. Williams went up to Tinker and they shared an embrace.
“Derrick is my oldest son. This is something I never imagined I’d go through. As a young teen, he just was getting into trouble, but never in a million years would I think he’d be on trial for murder, which I feel was more in self defense, ” Williams said.
“It was just a sad day for myself, for the victim’s family, but at least I got a chance to talk to her and her and I were able to embrace and to encourage one another,” Williams said. “This violence is hurting not only our families, but the community as a whole. It needs to stop and we need to come together as a community and stop the senseless violence that’s going on.”