MANCHESTER, NH – Tyrese Harris will spend 25 years in prison for the murder of Dzemal Cardakovic, a Londonderry father of three, who died of a bullet wound to the head on a Saturday afternoon in a road rage incident on South Willow Street.
Harris, 23, was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison for second-degree murder in the Oct. 29, 2022 killing of Cardakovic. He received suspended 3 1/2 to 7-year sentences on charges of reckless conduct, for driving at more than 100 mph in fleeing the scene, and falsifying physical evidence, for ditching the murder weapon which still has not been found. He also was given credit for 307 days of pre-trial confinement.
The murder took place at the intersection of Kaye and South Willow streets at the entance to the Mall of New Hampshire. Harris had cut off Cardakovic as both men were coming off Interstate 293 and onto South Willow Street. Cardakovic laid on his horn and Harris gave him the middle finger.
Cardakovic, in a semi-truck without a trailer, followed close behind Harris who threw a metal canister containing eyeglass cleaner at his truck, hitting the windshield. Stopped at the traffic light, Cardakovic got out of his truck, approached Harris’ CRV and spit at him through the half-open window.
Harris reached down to the right of his seat where he kept his loaded tan Glock 19X 9mm pistol, pointed it at Cardakovic’s face and fired, hitting Cardakovic in the nose. The 45-year-old truck driver fell to the ground where he died.
His son, then 11, and a nephew, age 9, were in Cardakovic’s truck and witnessed his murder.
Family members, who gave victim impact statements, said the two boys are still healing after witnessing his death. They said they initially learned of the incident when Cardakovic’s son texted, “There’s a body on South Willow Street.” Then in a later text said, “I think it’s my dad.”
His widow described their life together as “beyond beautiful. I never imagined it could end in a blink of an eye.”
The day he died, she received a call from her 11-year-old son telling her, “Mama, papa is dead.” Sirens were blaring in the background. It is something, she said, that will be repeated in her head forever.
Friends and family members described Cardakovic as an honest, kind man and a superhero in the Bosnian community. As a teenager, he survived genocide and a concentration camp in his native Bosnia only to die 30 years later by a bullet on South Willow Street.
He came to the United States with nothing and, through hard work, established a trucking business to provide for his family.
Cardakovic’s 19-year-old daughter Jasmina is now the family’s sole provider because his widow has a medical issue preventing her from working.
Family members, friends and relatives of Harris also addressed the court, asking for leniency. They described him as a man with a “huge heart” who was charismatic as a child. He is a 2019 graduate of West High School where he played varsity football for all four years, becoming the team’s captain in both his junior and senior years. His coach, Tom Bozoian, wrote a letter attesting to Harris’ character.
Harris also addressed the court.
“There hasn’t been a day that I haven’t thought about the horrible events that took place that day,” he said. “An apology can’t possibly do any justice to what has happened.”
Harris’ actions have prevented him from holding his infant daughter Szurie who was born in February. He has been detained in the Valley Street jail since the shooting. Szuri is seven-months-old and he has yet to hold her although they communicate online or through glass at the jail during visiting hours.
Senior Assistant Attorney General Adam Woods asked Judge Diane Nicolosi, presiding in Hillsborough County Superior Court North, to sentence Harris to 36 years to life in prison, with an opportunity to reduce it if he met certain conditions. Public Defender Aileen O’Connell asked the court to sentence him to 15 to 30 years.
The judge, prior to sentencing Harris, said the case was a unique and difficult one. She departed from both the prosecution and defense recommendations, explaining in detail why she chose to do so. She said the purpose of sentencing was punishment, deterrence and rehabilitation. In reaching her decision, she also weighed aggravating and mitigating factors.
Aggravated factors, she said, included: Harris’ response to Cardakovic’s actions was out of anger and did not require a gun; he was protected inside a car which he could have driven away when the light changed; he made no effort to call for medical care for Cardakovic; he fled the scene driving recklessly and endangering the community; he put the life of the community in danger when he disposed of the weapon in a “community that is rife with gun violence.”
Mitigating facts include Harris’ young age of 22 when the brain is still developing; he has no criminal record and no violent history; his past contributions to West High School; he was a high school graduate who was working.
The incident began at 3:22 p.m. on Oct. 29, 2022, when Harris, driving a blue Honda CRV, cut off Cardakovic’s white semi-truck, as they were exiting Interstate 293 onto South Willow Street. It ended 25 seconds later with Cardakovic dead in the middle of the road after Harris shot him in the face, sending a bullet into his nose and out the back of his neck, according to prosecutors.
The daylight shooting was witnessed by numerous motorists stopped at traffic lights at the mall.
Witnesses testified their attention was drawn to the two vehicles when Cardakovic twice laid on the horn after Harris cut him off and drove onto South Willow Street. Harris then threw a metal object at the truck, hitting its windshield, about the same time Cardakovic was getting out of the truck.
O’Connell, in her closing argument, said Harris was intimidated and fearful of Cardakovic, who outweighed him by about 100 pounds. At the red light, she said, Cardakovic got out of his semi-truck, ran to Harris’ car where he pulled on the door handle, then clutched his fists and through the partially open driver’s window, spat in Harris’ face. Harris feared he or his pregnant girlfriend, who was in the passenger seat, were going to be seriously injured and, in a split-second decision, fired the gun in self-defense, she said.
Woods said it wasn’t self-defense, it was cold-blooded murder. He pointed out that Harris’ girlfriend asked him after the incident why he shot Cardakovic. “I shot him” because “he spit on me,” he told her.
Several months later, in a phone call with his mother from the Valley Street jail, he said he got spit on directly in the face and mouth.
“That’s assault, y’know? So, boom, right? Your life was took cause you disrespect. Disrespect gets your life taken. Respect gets you further in life,” Harris was recorded saying.