'Let black people go!' shooting spree suspect Kori Muhammad yells in court
A Fresno County judge on Friday ordered a psychiatric evaluation for suspected shooting-spree killer Kori Ali Muhammad, who entered the courtroom yelling, “Let black people go!”
Muhammad, wearing shackles and a yellow jail jumpsuit, made his first Fresno County Superior Court appearance since the deadly shootings of the past week, but the proceedings were suspended after the defendant’s outburst. He yelled: “Let black people go and reparations.”
Muhammad’s mental competency was questioned by his attorney, Eric Christensen of the Public Defender’s Office. Judge W. Kent Hamlin ordered a psychiatric evaluation and rescheduled Muhammad’s arraignment for May 12.
Until then, Muhammad will remain in jail in lieu of $2.6 million bail, Hamlin said.
Judge W. Kent Hamlin ordered a psychiatric evaluation for Muhammad and rescheduled his arraignment for May 12.
A criminal complaint accuses Muhammad of murder in the April 13 shooting death of motel security guard Carl Allen Williams III. He also is accused of the attempted murder that night of security guard Oscar Menjivar.
Police say Muhammad was the gunman in a shooting rampage Tuesday morning in central Fresno that left three men dead.
If convicted of the Motel 6 murder charge, Muhammad, 39, faces life in prison. But he could face the death penalty in the case involving the alleged multiple murders.
Fresno police detectives continue to investigate the murders of Zackary David Randalls, 34, of Clovis; Mark James Gassett, 37, of Fresno; and David Martin Jackson, 58, of Fresno. Once police hand over investigative reports, the District Attorney’s Office will review them to determine what charges to file for those slayings.
Police Chief Jerry Dyer has said the four killings were fueled by Muhammad’s hatred of white people. Muhammad is black. All of the murder victims were white.
Distrist Attorney Lisa Smittcamp, who attended Friday’s hearing, assigned one of her top prosecutors, Brian Hutchins, to the case. After the hearing, Christensen declined to comment. Smittcamp, Hutchins and Christopher Gularte, chief of Smittcamp’s homicide team, slipped out of the courthouse without talking to reporters.
In court, however, Christensen asked the judge to deny a media request to photograph Muhammad. Christensen said he has concerns about potential issues with witness identification of the defendant.
Distrist Attorney Lisa Smittcamp, who attended Friday’s hearing, assigned one of her top prosecutors, Brian Hutchins, to the case.
Initially, Hamlin leaned toward granting the media request, saying the case has generated a great deal of public interest. But when Hutchins joined the defense in objecting to taking photographs of the defendant, Hamlin denied the media request, noting for the record that adverse pretrial publicity could lead to a change of venue.
Changes of venue, however, are rarely granted in Fresno County. Marcus Wesson, who was convicted of orchestrating the 2004 murder of nine of his children in Fresno, was tried in Fresno County Superior Court and sentenced to death in 2005.
The last Fresno County defendant to received a change of venue was Clovis biochemist Larissa Schuster, who was sentenced in 2008 to life in prison without the possibility of parole after being convicted of murdering her estranged husband, Timothy Schuster, by knocking him out with chloroform and stuffing him in a barrel of hydrorchloric acid in July 2003. Larissa Schuster was tried in the city of Van Nuys in Los Angeles County Superior Court.
Her co-defendant, James Fagone, however, was tried in Fresno County Superior Court and convicted of murdering Timothy Schuster, in December 2006. Fagone also is serving a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Court records say Muhammad has several aliases, including Kori McWallace, Kori Taylor, Cory Allen Taylor and Cory Allen Muhammad. He grew up in Fresno, but later moved to Sacramento, where he racked up nine criminal cases in Sacramento Superior Court between 1997 and 2004, including a gun conviction, online records indicate. His criminal record also includes making criminal threats, forgery, false imprisonment and driving under the influence, online records state.
In October 2006, he was sentenced to federal prison after pleading guilty in U.S. District Court in Fresno to possession with the intent to distribute crack cocaine and being a felon in possession of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking. He was released from prison in September 2011 and placed on supervised release.
He completed supervised release in September last year, court records say.