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Arrest made in November homicide

Derek Hall

BY JENNIFER CABRERA

Derek Hall was arrested on February 6 by Gainesville Police Department (GPD) officers in connection with the homicide of Arash Nikoonejad on or around November 4, 2019.

Nikoonejad’s body was discovered on November 8, 2019, after his family requested a well-being check at his residence at 110 NW 39th Avenue, in Bella Vista Village. The doors of his residence were locked with a deadbolt, and nobody had heard from him since the night of November 4.

GPD detectives learned that on the evening on November 4, Derek Hall had pulled into the driveway of Nikoonejad’s next-door neighbor, Virgil Burns. Witnesses stated that Nikoonejad came out of his apartment and confronted Burns, possibly over drugs or money.

Another witness saw Nikoonejad hit Hall’s car with a broken electric blower handle. Hall reportedly backed his car up, revved the engine, and drove toward Nikoonejad, striking him and knocking him approximately 20 feet back. Other witnesses stated that Nikoonejad had no visible bleeding and that he talked to them briefly before returning alone to his apartment.

An autopsy found that Nikoonejad suffered internal bleeding, internal bruising, and fractured ribs. The medical examiner also found a small-caliber bullet and indicated that the bullet entered the upper right side of the victim’s back and settled in the left front side of his chest, where a significant amount of pooling blood was located. The medical examiner ruled that the gunshot wound caused Nikoonejad’s death.

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On November 14, detectives spoke with another neighbor, who said he’d heard some gunshots on the night of November 4 while walking his dog. He saw three people standing over another man but couldn’t give any descriptions because he was too far away. He spoke that evening to officers who were responding to a 911 report of shots fired.

Further investigation revealed that Hall and Burns had later returned because they suspected Nikoonejad had entered Burns’s apartment and stolen some items. Nikoonejad happened to be walking up to his own residence and verbally confronted Hall and Burns. Hall and Burns chased Nikoonejad, and then the witness heard 2 gunshots and saw Nikoonejad on the ground near the door to his own apartment, with Hall and Burns “giving him a good beating.” Hall and Burns then drove away.

Officers searched Hall’s Camry and found traces of blood on both the driver and passenger interior door panels and handles. FDLE reports came back on February 6, confirming that the blood from the car matched that of Nikoonejad. Location data from Hall’s and Burns’s phones also confirmed that they were in the area of 110 NW 39th Avenue at the estimated time of the shooting.

On February 6, GPD detectives re-arrested Hall and charged him with first-degree homicide and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. He is currently being held without bond in the Alachua County Jail. Hall has two previous felony convictions.