May 24, 2013

Detective: Confrontation between gangs led to athlete's 2010 fatal shooting

"On sight," is the way the detective described how quickly rivals from two street gangs pulled out their guns when they came across each other during a two-year war that had neighborhoods in south Sacramento ducking for cover.

"On sight," is the way the detective described how quickly rivals from two street gangs pulled out their guns when they came across each other during a two-year war that had neighborhoods in south Sacramento ducking for cover.

For two days on the witness stand this week in Sacramento Superior Court, Elk Grove police Detective Paul Grant said it was the confrontation between the gangs called G-Mobb and Gunz Up that provided the backdrop to the June 5, 2010, shooting death of popular former Valley High School basketball player and non-gang member D'andre Blackwell.

The war created 26 separate battlegrounds in shootouts between the two gangs, most of them on the south side, according to Grant, who was testifying in the trial of four men charged with murder in Blackwell's death. The shootouts resulted in five deaths and numerous injuries before the war receded in the wake of Blackwell's killing.

At its peak, whenever anybody from the G-Mobb met up with Gunz Up or their allies, Grant told a Sacramento Superior Court jury that chances were high the street-soldier reaction would be automatic.

It was this "on sight" mentality – described to him, Grant said, by a gang-member source – combined with the long-standing concept of "respect" and how it is interpreted in the gang subculture that came into play the night Blackwell was fatally shot.

Blackwell, 18, wasn't in either gang, Grant testified. But the teenager went to a high school graduation party at the Holiday Inn Express on West Stockton Boulevard in Elk Grove with two friends who were. Blackwell's pals, according to Grant, were affiliated with Gunz Up.

When the three of them ran into a collection of G-Mobb members, there was an exchange of disrespectful remarks. A gun then came out, and a bullet wound up in the chest of Blackwell. He ran up a stairwell before he collapsed and died.

Deputy District Attorney Billy Satchell identified the shooter as Al Henry Allen, now 22, a G-Mobb member who once took a bullet in the same war. Allen was shot in an arm on Aug. 22, 2008, a night that authorities say the G-Mobb took on the Fourth Avenue Bloods – allies of Gunz Up, according to Grant. The battle that night at a house party on Detroit Avenue left Robert Haynes, 16, dead. Haynes was a prospective Sacramento High School football player.

Prosecutors charged eight other reputed G-Mobb members in the Blackwell killing. Five have since pleaded out and three were supposed to testify at trial. Satchell did not call on them as witnesses – two because he decided against it, and the third, Raymond Shaw, because he never showed up at trial.

Shaw is in danger of having murder charges refiled against him. DA's investigator Derrick Greenwood testified this week that when he contacted Shaw by phone once they started hearing evidence in the case, the would-be witness told him, "Come find me." Then he hung up.

Joining Allen as co-defendants are Marquess Travon Wilson, 19, Jahmal Vance Dawson, 20, and Brandon Marcel Washington, 24.

On Thursday, Satchell included something of a floor show to accompany Grant's testimony. It was the playing of the 4-minute, 33-second video featuring Donald "Lavish D" Oliver, a local rap artist, and his glorification of money and violence.

Oliver filmed the video June 5, 2010 – just a matter of hours before Blackwell was shot dead. Asked by Satchell how many of the defendants participated in the production, which as of Thursday afternoon had attracted 195,181 YouTube hits, Grant replied, "All of them."

Defense attorney Charles Bauer, who is representing Washington, asked Grant if Elk Grove investigators interviewed Oliver after the killing.

The answer was no.

"Lavish D doesn't talk to the police," Grant testified.

In questioning Grant, Allen attorney Donald Manning appeared to suggest his belief that a third person at the hotel the night of the killing may have been responsible for it.

Bauer and the other two defense lawyers, James Warden for Dawson and Kevin Adamson for Wilson, poked at Grant on his certainty of their clients' gang connections.

They also prodded the detective on his portrayal of gangs as bulwarks of internal loyalty when their members often are just as quick to inform on each other when police get them alone as they are to intimidate others in their neighborhoods for "snitching."

"It's not uncommon for them to look out for themselves," Grant said.

At the end of Grant's cross-examination, Satchell rested the prosecution's case. All four defense cases are expected to wrap up Tuesday, with closing arguments to follow before Judge Steve White.

Call The Bee's Andy Furillo, (916) 321-1141. Follow him on Twitter @andyfurillo.

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