Lawrence teen formally charged with first-degree murder in fatal shooting in central Lawrence

photo by: Contributed

Pictured at left is Javier Romero, 18, who was recently charged with first-degree murder. At right is the Douglas County Judicial and Law Enforcement Center.

A Lawrence teen accused of fatally shooting a man in central Lawrence earlier this month was formally charged on Monday.

Javier I. Romero, 18, was charged with first-degree murder, an off-grid felony that could result in life in prison if he is convicted of killing 21-year-old Christian Willis. He was also charged with possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, a level-three felony drug charge.

According to a charging document provided to the Journal-World, Romero is accused of intentionally killing Willis on Sept. 8. The document also provides the alternative charge, accusing Romero of killing Willis “in the commission of, attempt to commit, or flight from any inherently dangerous felony,” and then lists the felony drug charge.

As the Journal-World previously reported, the shooting took place around 7:15 p.m. Sept. 8 in the 1500 block of Kentucky Street. Willis, of Wichita, was pronounced dead at the scene. Police arrested Romero on Friday. Police are also searching for 19-year-old Andrel Darnell Spates Jr., of Lawrence, in connection with the killing.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Romero was still in custody on a $1 million bond, according to court records. His next court appearance is scheduled for Sept. 28.

The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office declined the Journal-World’s request for Romero’s booking photo.

Romero has been involved in other shooting incidents this year. He was allegedly a participant in a reported exchange of gunfire in January, when he was 17, the Journal-World reported. The incident resulted in two McLouth brothers being sentenced to probation for gun-related convictions. Romero’s juvenile case stemming from the incident, where he is charged with criminal discharge of a firearm, is still pending.

Additionally, Romero is listed as one of the victims in a reported North Lawrence shooting in May. Alejandro Martinez-Diaz, 18, and Ontareo X. Jackson, 18, are accused of firing at Romero and a woman in his car, hitting the woman in the head and neck.

Romero drove the woman to the hospital. Police later arrested both men, who have been charged with two counts of attempted second-degree murder, the Journal-World reported.

Romero was also previously convicted in a juvenile case involving a firearm, according to court records. He was convicted of criminal use of weapons in 2019, for which he was sentenced to six months of probation.

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