Two Fresno men will stand trial on a murder charge in the shooting death of a man at an east-central Fresno apartment complex last July, a judge ruled Tuesday in Fresno County Superior Court.
Judge Edward Sarkisian Jr. made his ruling after police Detective Bartlett Ledbetter testified that witnesses saw Shawn Lamont Brown and Lachance Larue Thomas at Ashwood Gardens apartment complex on Shields Avenue near Maple Avenue right before gunfire erupted just after midnight of July 28 last year.
Von Randell Correia, 29, was killed. Shot in the back, the bullet pierced his heart and left lung, said police Detective Ignacio Ruiz.
Fast police work led to the arrest of Brown and Thomas.
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Officer Dominique Comeyne testified she was dispatched to a disturbance at the Ashwood Gardens around 12:15 a.m. When she arrived, she heard gunfire and saw a silver Dodge Charger leaving the complex. Comeyne said she immediately asked two women if the car was involved in the shooting. When the women said yes, Comeyne testified she activated her patrol car’s lights and siren and started chasing the car.
The car headed west on Shields Avenue toward Highway 168. Once the car got onto the freeway onramp, Comeyne pulled the car over. Thomas and Brown were inside the vehicle with a female driver.
Comeyne testified that while she detained Thomas and Brown, another officer found a black semi-automatic pistol on the ground near the beginning of the onramp.
Brown and Thomas were booked into the Fresno County Jail on murder charges, but were later released because the investigation was not completed.
Once the bullet in the murder victim’s body was matched to a pistol that was thrown onto the street, warrants were issued for the pair’s arrest, prosecutor Sam Dalesandro said.
Once the bullet in Correia’s body was matched to a pistol that was thrown onto the street, warrants were issued for the pair’s arrest, prosecutor Sam Dalesandro said.
Thomas was arrested in August. Brown was arrested in Las Vegas after he was tied to an officer-involved shooting in Sunnyvale in August.
Brown’s name came up when a Sunnyvale police officer killed an armed man at a Motel 6 on Aug. 15. Police in the Bay Area city said the deadly incident took place after officers were investigating suspicious activity, possibly involving prostitution and a minor, when they approached occupants of a Jaguar.
Police said Allen Matthew Baker III, 23, of San Diego, dropped a high-capacity magazine as he ran toward a commercial complex. An officer pursued Baker and saw him holding a handgun. When Baker ignored repeated commands to drop the weapon, the officer fired nine times, killing him, police said. Baker was sought on a robbery warrant at the time of his death.
The other suspect, whom police believed to be Brown, eluded officers despite a six-hour search. Las Vegas Metro police said Brown was arrested in October during an operation by a fugitive task force.
During the pair’s preliminary hearing Tuesday, Brown was identified as the gunman who killed Correia, Dalesandro said. Thomas is accused of aiding and abetting in the killing.
Though a motive for the killing was not revealed, detective Ledbetter testified that residents of the apartment complex heard someone say, “Do you have any trees?” right before the victim was shot. In street talk, “trees” means marijuana, Ledbetter testified.
And detective Ruiz testified that six shots were fired, but Correia was only hit once in the back. The coroner, however, found another bullet lodged in the victim’s hip from a prior shooting, Ruiz said. A small packet of methamphetamine also was discovered in the victim’s clothing, he testified.
If convicted of murder, Brown faces 50 years to life in prison, while Thomas faces 26 years to life in prison.
They will be arraigned Jan. 27.