A witness testifying in a Sacramento courtroom Monday established a line of fire that authorities say killed an innocent woman two years ago outside a south area barbershop.
Ernest Burton Stoute said he was standing almost alongside the man who investigators say fired the bullet that killed Monique Nelson, 30, as she laid her body across her 2-year-old son, Jayden, during the Dec. 14, 2010, running gunbattle outside Fly Cuts & Styles on Stockton Boulevard.
Stoute's acquaintance, James Leo "Pep" Carney III, 33, fired a revolver twice at two men who emerged from the barbershop with an AK-47 assault rifle and a TEC-9 automatic handgun, Stoute testified at a preliminary hearing for six men charged with murder in Nelson's death.
Stoute said he and his son, as well as Carney, were standing in a parking lot across Lindale Drive north of the barbershop strip mall when one of the two men with the big guns "turned around and shot at us."
In response, "Pep shot back," Stoute said.
Authorities identified the two men as Louis James Mitchell, 20, and Lonnie Orlando Mitchell Jr., 25. They are undergoing the preliminary hearing along with Carney and defendants Larry Dean Jones Jr., 30, Dominique Marcell Lott, 29, and Charles Barksdale, 31.
Stoute, 28, was arrested Jan. 6 and charged with murder in the case, but those charges were dismissed March 2 after prosecutors said further investigation showed that Stoute had nothing to do with the shooting.
Stoute told Sacramento Superior Court Judge Ernest W. Sawtelle on Monday he received no deals or promises in exchange for his testimony.
He said his wife dropped him off at the barbershop with his son the day of the shooting to get haircuts.
Earlier that day, Stoute said, he called his friend, defendant Jones, and they discussed possible plans to go Christmas shopping after their haircuts.
Inside the barbershop, he said he saw a man he identified as Lonnie Mitchell carrying what appeared to be the TEC-9 under his sweatshirt. Stoute testified that Jones borrowed his cellphone and called somebody while "watching" the Mitchell brothers.
The brothers and an unidentified third man then walked out to the parking lot and up to a gray Chevy Impala that had backed up to the barbershop, Stoute said. The car was driven by a cousin of the Mitchells, Justine Harrington, who testified last week.
When the three walked back inside, Stoute testified that Lonnie Mitchell was flapping his hands and talking "aggressively," "rapping" about "clapping (shooting) the place up."
Stoute said the third man with the Mitchells, after they returned from Harrington's car, sat on a couch with his leg extended as if he then had a rifle stuck down his pants. Attorneys Linda Parisi and Amy Rogers, who are representing the Mitchells, objected to the suggestion of the gun. The judge struck the remark from the record.
Stoute testified he felt uneasy that Louis Mitchell directed a hard stare at him.
"It's like we were almost trapped," Stoute said.
He said he got his son and left what he characterized as the "hostile environment" of the barbershop, keeping himself between his boy and Lonnie Mitchell on the way out.
Outside, Stoute said, he and his son walked north across Lindale Drive, where they saw Carney, who had just driven up and parked.
"He asked me, 'Where bro (Jones) at?" Stoute testified. Stoute told him Jones was back in the barbershop. Stoute said he was putting his son into Carney's automobile when the gunfire exploded.
The shooting started inside the barbershop, where Marvion Dashawn "Beathy" Barksdale, 20, was killed. No murder charge was filed in connection with his death, authorities said, because they believe he instigated the shooting in response to a dispute he had with one of the Mitchells.
Once outside the barbershop, the Mitchells fired at two other men who ran south through the strip mall, Stoute testified, before Louis Mitchell turned apparently with the AK-47 and fired in his direction. That gunfire drew the fatal return fire from Carney.
At the conclusion of Monday's testimony, Sawtelle scheduled the hearing to continue on Sept. 28. The judge slated four more dates through Nov. 16, after which he is expected to rule whether the defendants must stand trial.