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Accused murderer ordered released after ‘key witness’ turns uncooperative

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) A Fort Wayne man charged with a fatal shooting nearly a year ago has been released from jail after a key witness in the case failed to cooperate with prosecutors.

An Allen Superior Court judge on Friday ordered Hozyfa Sultan, 25, released from custody because state law requires defendants be brought to trial within six months. Since Sultan was arrested in November 2015 for the Oct. 22 fatal shooting of 20-year-old Brandon Washington, that time frame has passed.

Allen County Prosecutors said Friday that they weren’t able to bring Sultan to trial because a key witness in the case has not been cooperative and has failed to show up to give a deposition. A bench warrant has been issued for that witness, who was not identified.

Prosecutors believe Sultan opened fire on Washington and another man just before noon Oct. 22 inside a home at 5111 Plaza Drive. Washington’s body was found dead in the home; the other man fled and survived.

Just 12 hours after Washington was killed, his brother, 21-year-old brother Larry Washington, was shot and killed inside an SUV parked along the 900 block of East Wayne Street.

According to a probable cause affidavit, police spoke with the man shot alongside Brandon Washington inside that Plaza Drive home a day afterward in the hospital, but he first said did not know who shot him. Less than a week later, though, the man told police he “knew all along that Hozyfa Sultan was the person who shot him and Brandon Washington,” the affidavit said.

The man told police Sultan came to the Plaza Drive home and looked around before he asked if they had any guns. After both men said they didn’t, the man told police “Sultan pulled out a gun from his right pocket and started shooting Brandon,” the affidavit said. The man said Sultan then turned the gun on him as he ran out of the home, the affidavit said.

The man was recovered by medics at a home at 5202 Plaza Drive, critically injured.

The man, whose name was not released, told police he and Washington both knew Sultan because he is a friend of Larry Washington. He positively identified Sultan out of a photo array, the affidavit said.

The man also told police he saw Sultan leave the home in the silver Nissan he’d been know to drive. Police then watched a home surveillance video that showed that silver car, the affidavit said.

It’s not clear if prosecutors’ “key witness” is that man.

Sultan will be released to Allen County Pretrial Services so his whereabouts can still be monitored. He remains charged with murder and attempted murder as well as an additional penalty for using a firearm, and is still scheduled to stand trial March 14.