SUGARLOAF TWP. — A West Hazleton man was arraigned Monday on charges he fatally shot a 17-year-old boy during what state police allege was a botched drug deal at a Freeland playground last month.
Brandon Joseph Gambardella, 18, was charged with an open count of criminal homicide in the death of Anthony Bonney on June 18.
State police allege Bonney and another teen agreed to meet Gambardella to sell cocaine but passed off a mixture of drywall shavings and baking soda. Gambardella allegedly shot Bonney as he ran from the playground.
Bonney died at Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center several hours after he sustained a gunshot wound to the head, the Luzerne County coroner’s office said.
Gambardella was initially charged with two counts of aggravated assault, but those were withdrawn by prosecutors Monday before District Judge Daniel O’Donnell in light of Bonney’s death.
According to a criminal complaint:
Gambardella agreed via Facebook messenger to meet Bonney and James Joseph Shanda to purchase cocaine for $110. Bonney and the other male did not have the drug, but went ahead with the plan anyway.
Gambardella was driven by two females to the meeting at Freeland Public Park.
Bonney and Shanda approached the car at about 1:45 a.m. and completed the deal. But then Gambardella said he wanted to test the cocaine, and Bonney and Shanda fled.
Gambardella chased them.
Moments later, the females heard gunfire and Gambardella returned to the vehicle and reportedly said he didn’t mean for the shooting to happen.
Shanda told investigators he heard the gunshot and saw Bonney fall to the ground on Sabol Street.
Gambardella was jailed at the county lockup without bail.