O.C. Drive-By Shooter Pleads Guilty

SNOW HILL- A Millsboro, Del. man in Circuit Court on Wednesday facing attempted murder charges for a drive-by shooting in Ocean City in May 2006 pleaded guilty to first-degree assault and now faces a maximum of 20 years in jail pending the outcome of a pre-sentence investigation.

Kyle Combs, 21, of Millsboro, was in Circuit Court on Wednesday facing attempted murder charges for shooting a man in the face at a red traffic signal on Baltimore Ave. in Ocean City in May 2006. The shooting was apparently in retaliation of an attack on Combs two weeks earlier at the Wal-Mart in Salisbury by the victim and others believed to be in a gang in Wicomico County.

Combs reportedly recognized the victim, Matthew Hearn, when he pulled up next to him at the traffic signal, and reached across the passenger in his vehicle and shot the victim in the face. The bullet exited the victim through the back of his neck and barely missed his spinal cord, according to Wednesday’s testimony.

On May 5, 2006, the victim, Matthew Hearn, and another man were driving north on Baltimore Ave. in Ocean City when they approached a red traffic signal at 3rd Street. Someone in the vehicle next to the victim’s yelled “hey” or “yo” when the light changed to green, and when Hearn looked to his left, he was shot in the face by someone, later identified as Combs, in the vehicle next to them.

The passenger, realizing Hearn had been shot, switched places with the victim and drove him to Atlantic General Hospital. Meanwhile, Combs and the other two suspects took off in their car and headed out of town across the Route 50 bridge. According to testimony on Wednesday, Combs reportedly handed the gun to the front-seat passenger and told him to throw it out of the window and into the bay as they drove across the bridge.

OCPD detectives obtained warrants for Combs and the other two suspects in the vehicle, Turaine Burgess and Ricky George, and they were located in December, six months after the shooting. Burgess and George were located in Chattanooga, Tenn., while Combs was in Pennsylvania and turned himself in to resort police. Combs was charged with attempted first-degree murder, first-and second-degree assault and handgun violations.

Worcester County State’s Attorney Joel Todd struck a plea bargain with Combs’ defense attorney William Clarke that included a guilty plea to first-degree assault in exchange for the other charges against Combs not being prosecuted. The binding plea agreement includes a maximum sentence for Combs of 20 years in jail with all but 10 suspended. First-degree assault carries a maximum penalty of 25 years in jail.

After the facts of the case were read into the record and further evidence was provided, Judge Thomas C. Groton found Combs guilty of first-degree assault and ordered a pre-sentence investigation. Clarke asked Groton to consider the earlier attack on his client when it came to sentencing and suggested the shooting was a continuation of the attack on Combs by the victim two weeks earlier.

“The guy who got shot in this case wasn’t exactly innocent,” he said. “He’s part of a Wicomico County gang that jumped Mr. Combs in Salisbury two weeks prior to this incident. I know the names of the state’s witnesses and they are members of a well-known gang in Salisbury.”

Nonetheless, Groton said the shooting may have been considered retaliation for the earlier attack on Combs, but could not be considered a continuation based on the amount of time between to two incidents. Groton said Combs could have chosen options other than shooting the victim in the face at close range.

“He could have done a couple of things,” he said. “He could have, and should have, reported it to the police, for example.”