Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Witness says he saw gang fight occur


The first witness questioned yesterday during day one of the preliminary hearing for 14-year-old Ricardo “Ricky” Juarez said he watched the March 14 gang melee unfold from his second story balcony window on Carrillo Street, and described seeing a boy thrust a knife two times at another boy.
The testimony came from Brent Daniels, a former Santa Barbara city employee, who described a mob scene at the intersection of State and Carrillo Streets that included hundreds of young people.

But in the midst of the brawl, Daniels said his attention was focused on two boys from the “blue team,” one of which held a knife, while the other wielded an aluminum baseball bat.
Daniels said the “white team” converged from the west side of State Street, while the “blue team” came from the east.
“That’s when all hell broke lose,” Daniels said. “They were coming from every direction. It was just kind of mayhem down there.”
The terms white and blue team were used during yesterday’s hearing to distinguish between two of the city’s rival gangs.
When the dust from the afternoon brawl settled, 15-year-old Luis Angel Linares lay dead in the Saks Fifth Avenue parking lot, while police arrested and questioned several local youths, one of which was Juarez, who has since been charged with Linares’ murder.
While the mayhem unfolded in the street, Daniels said he watched as the white team began to retreat.
He said he kept a close eye on the boy with the knife, who he said approached a remaining white team member and thrust the blade toward the boy’s left shoulder area.
“There was a lunging motion to the individual on the white team,” Daniels said.
When asked by Senior Deputy District Attorney Hilary Dozer, the prosecutor, about the size of the knife, Daniels said: “It was large enough that I could see it from my vantage point clearly.”
After the first thrust forward with the blade, Daniels said the boy on the white team fell backwards into a “crab-walk like position.”
But Daniels said the boy with the knife wasn’t finished.
He said the boy on the ground was crawling away when the boy with the knife lunged forward a second time, placing the blade in a similar spot. Daniels said he didn’t see any blood on the boy from the white team and that the boy didn’t immediately get up off the street
“He didn’t get up by himself,” Daniels said. “It was a cooperative effort to get him off the ground.”
When police arrived on the scene, Daniels said he went out into the street to identify the boy who had the knife and the boy who had the bat while it was still fresh in his mind.
Though Daniels told the court he couldn’t be sure if the person he identified on March 14 was in the courtroom yesterday, three law enforcement officers testified that on the day of the stabbing, Daniels identified Juarez as the boy who had the knife.
When asked by Dozer how sure he was about making an accurate ID on the day of the stabbing, Daniels said he was “100 percent positive.”
During her cross examination, Juarez’s attorney, Deputy Public Defender Karen Atkins asked Daniels if the boy on the white team, who was not identified by the court yesterday as Linares, could have simply tripped and fallen backwards.
“To me it appears to be simple physics,” Daniels said. “Action, reaction. There was a lunge, the person fell back.”
Santa Barbara Police Officer Mark Hunt told the court yesterday that Daniels approached him and offered to identify the stabber. At that time, Hunt said Juarez was in custody with several other boys sitting on a curb.
“He said that Mr. Juarez had stabbed the victim once when he was standing and stabbed the victim on the ground once,” Hunt said.
When asked by Dozer if the person Daniels identified on the street that day was present in court, Hunt pointed directly at Juarez.
Santa Barbara Police Detective Mark Vierra, who works in the department’s major crimes unit, said his first task upon arriving on the scene that day was to interview Daniels.
Vierra said he met Daniels in his second floor office overlooking the scene.
When asked by Dozer how good the view of the scene was from Daniels’ balcony window, Vierra answered “very clear.”
Prompted by questions from Dozer, Vierra elaborated on what Daniels had told him on the day of the incident despite objections by Atkins, who claimed Vierra’s comments constituted hearsay.
Superior Court Judge Brian Hill overruled most of Atkins’ objections, basing his decision on Proposition 115, which allows some forms of hearsay to be used during preliminary hearings.
Santa Barbara Police Officer Robert Casey, who also testified yesterday, said he responded to the scene on a police bicycle and that he quickly surveyed the scene for any evidence.
Casey said he eventually found the knife, which he described as a black “hunting knife,” in a nearby garbage can. The sheath for the knife was also found nearby.
Several more witnesses are expected to take the stand today beginning at 9 a.m. Atkins has estimated the preliminary hearing could take up to eight days.
The preliminary hearing is being held in Department 14, which is located in the Jury Services Building on Santa Barbara Street.
Friends and family of both Juarez and Linares packed the courtroom yesterday, which was heavily guarded by several Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Deputies. Before entering the courtroom, those in attendance were screened by a metal detector.
One person who watched the hearing yesterday with particular interest was Brian McCarthy, Juarez’s former 6th grade teacher at Cleveland School.
During an interview with a Daily Sound correspondent in June, McCarthy said Juarez was a “good, solid B+, A- student, an impeccable student with impeccable manners, the most popular kid in his class.”
McCarthy said after yesterday’s hearing that it’s still hard for him to believe that Juarez stabbed Linares.
“The word on the street is that it isn’t him,” McCarthy said.
“It’s painful to listen to people say he did it,” he said.
When asked about whether or not he agreed with the decision to try Juarez as an adult, McCarthy expressed strong disapproval of District Attorney Christie Stanley’s decision.
“It’s ridiculous,” McCarthy said. “You can’t even call in sick to school [at the age of 14]. How can you possibly make an adult decision.”
Since Juarez’s arrest and Linares’s death, McCarthy said he’s trying to keep his students, some of which are gang members, beneath his umbrella of influence.

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