Jesse Mestre stood in Lawrence District Court yesterday, laughing at times, while he was arraigned on murder charges.

LAWRENCE — It was late on Aug. 15 when 18-year-old Jesse Mestre stood on a basketball court, grabbed a gun from his friend and holding it sideways, fired four shots at 18-year-old Jose Ramos Jr., a prosecutor said.

Yesterday, Mestre stood in court, laughing at times, while the prosecutor told of those actions the night Mestre allegedly shot and killed Ramos.

Today, Mestre sits in jail, held without bail. His lawyer Edward Hayden said, “There is a defense to this, and we intend to vigorously pursue it.”

Mestre was one of three teens arraigned yesterday in Lawrence District Court in connection with the killing of Ramos at Scarito Park on Brook Street.

Mestre, of 174 Jackson St., and Carlos Martinez, 16, of 393 Chestnut St., were both charged with murder and carrying a firearm without a license. Martinez, a ward of the state, was on parole at the time of the shooting. State law says all juveniles over the age of 14 must be tried as an adult in capital cases.

Prosecutor Jessica Strasnick said

Martinez was seen by witnesses either loading or fumbling with the gun when Mestre took and fired the four shots. Only one hit Ramos — it was a shot to the forehead, and it killed him.

Nelson Rivera Jr., 18, of 69 Newbury St., was charged with being an accessory after the fact of murder, and possession of a firearm without a firearms identification card.

Strasnick said the shooting happened on a basketball court where Ramos and his friends were waiting to play the next game at about 11 p.m. That’s when, she said, a group approached, including Martinez, Mestre and Rivera.

According to police reports, the two groups exchanged words, and members of the second group promised they would be back with friends.

Fearing a fight, Ramos went to his car and got an aluminum baseball bat, but then the group returned and surrounded Ramos on the basketball court. Strasnick said that is when Martinez pulled out the small handgun and Mestre took it away.

Strasnick said Mestre held it sideways, gangster-style, and fired four shots. The gun was tossed under a car, to be recovered later by police.

The group ran from the scene, and Mestre and Rivera were stopped 50 to 100 yards away. They were released after questioning.

All three teens were arrested Friday in Salem Superior Court as they waited to testify before a grand jury investigating the murder.

Thomas Palumbo, the lawyer for Martinez, said outside the courtroom he had only just been assigned the case and needed time to investigate.

“All we have is allegations,” Palumbo said.

Rivera was ordered held on $100,000 cash bail. Strasnick sought $500,000 cash bail saying Rivera confessed to the crime.

Linda Cummings, the lawyer for Rivera, said, “Despite the statement he gave to police, there is very little to connect him to the shooting. He said he heard gunshots and ran. He denies giving a statement to police,” Cummings said.

Strasnick told the court Martinez and Mestre would face additional firearms charges.

Family reaction

Outside the courtroom, Gina Sangiovanni wept as she showed a tattoo on the calf of her leg that she got on Friday as a memorial to the victim.

“The blue in the tattoo is the same color as the shirt he was wearing the night he was shot,” she said.

Sangiovanni told a reporter she knows Ramos’ father, Jose Ramos Sr., and would help with Jose Jr. as he grew up.

“I just want to see their faces. That’s all I want,” she said of the teens accused of killing Ramos.

The victim’s grandmother Genoveva Valle said she brought Jose Ramos Jr. to the United States from Puerto Rico five years ago.

“Now I regret that I brought him here,” she said, through a translator. “He came here to New York because he wanted to learn English and meet his father. He never knew his father until he got here.”

Outside the courtroom, Hector Rijo, 20, who identified himself as a friend of the three men charged in the killing, said police were around the city on Sunday showing pictures of another man.

Police Chief John Romero confirmed yesterday police were showing a picture around.

“The investigation is continuing,” he said.

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