It started with hard looks, then coded greetings between two pairs of young men crossing the Sacramento City College campus parking lot just before 4 p.m. early in the fall 2015 semester.
“What’s up, cuz?” said Tevita Kaihea, 20, a signal that identified Kaihea and friend Charlie Hola as members of the Tongan Crips street gang, detectives said Friday.
“What’s up, boulevard?” came the response, the call word of the Franklin Boulevard Nortenos, detectives said.
Within 10 seconds, Sacramento police investigators testified Friday, the four men tangled. A knife came out. Then the sound of gunshots.
Roman Gonzalez, 25, lay dead in the parking lot a short walk from the campus administration building. Hola was stabbed four times during the brawl but managed to run away.
Hola, 21, and Kaihea, 20, appeared together Friday in a preliminary hearing, facing murder charges in the Sept. 3, 2015, incident. Kaihea is accused of firing the shots that killed Gonzalez.
On Friday, Sacramento Police Detective Brian Dedonder testified that security footage captured Kaihea walking into the frame carrying a gun wrapped in a dark shirt and firing the shots that hit Gonzalez before sprinting past a campus office building.
An employee who looked up to see the man darting past her window was later able to identify Kaihea from police lineup photos, detectives testified.
A fourth man – Rico Ridgeway, the one police say stabbed Hola – also fled. Police later recovered the bloody knife they say was used in the stabbing in grass near the campus athletic fields and arrested Ridgeway.
He faces a June trial in Sacramento Superior Court on assault charges connected to the attack on Hola, court records show. Hola was arrested days later at his home, but Kaihea managed to elude authorities before his arrest weeks later in October.
Investigators on Friday testified that Sacramento City College was the final stop for Hola and Kaihea in a two-day string of crimes that included a Sept. 2 armed robbery in the garage of a Cottonfield Way home in south Sacramento County; the shooting of the robbery victim near that home on Sept. 3, after the man recognized the pair and tried to photograph their vehicle; and the gunpoint robbery of a Florin Road Church’s Chicken in the hours before Gonzalez was shot dead.
No one was hurt in the fast food holdup, but security video and a customer who jotted down the license plate of the suspected getaway car – a minivan stolen from a nearby light-rail station – also helped investigators.
Officers recovered shell casings – nine in all – from the campus crime scene that investigators Friday say matched five spent rounds fired on Cottonfield Way and tied Hola and Kaihea to the south area shooting.
Meanwhile, prosecutors showed images from Regional Transit light-rail security cameras in the hours before the City College shooting that showed Hola and Kaihea wearing the same clothes found bloodied and discarded in the campus parking lot.
The two were initially jailed in 2015 on the strength of robbery charges stemming from the chicken carryout holdup hours before the brawl. Sacramento County prosecutors formally filed murder charges in December 2015 while Hola and Kaihea remained in custody.
They remain held without bail at Sacramento County Main Jail. Testimony before Sacramento Superior Court Judge Geoffrey Goodman will conclude March 3.