The only woman among the five people charged in the wild melee with police that marred UC Davis’ Picnic Day was tossed around “like a rag doll” by an officer before she was arrested, a defense attorney asserted Tuesday.
Another plainclothes officer, the attorney said, sported a pest control work shirt that day because the officer said his job was to “exterminate pests.”
At Tuesday’s continued preliminary hearing in Yolo Superior Court for the group dubbed the “Picnic Day Five,” attorneys again focused on the chaos and confusion of the April 22 incident, which saw a violent exchange between a group of revelers and undercover Davis police officers.
The busy and contentious third day of testimony ended abruptly in the afternoon after an attorney’s family emergency brought a halt to the hearing. Testimony is scheduled to continue Wednesday.
Earlier Tuesday, a Davis officer testified that one of the defendants appeared to reach into his waistband as if to draw a weapon in the seconds after an unmarked police van carrying three plainclothes officers drove into a large crowd gathered on Russell Avenue, triggering a melee that left several officers injured.
Elijah Williams, Alexander Craver, Iszir Price, Antwone Perry and Angelica Reyes all face charges of assault on a peace officer in the April brawl. All five say they were defending themselves, unaware the men in the van were Davis police until after blows were exchanged.
Before proceedings began Tuesday, Yolo Superior Court Judge David Rosenberg announced that Perry had fired his defense counsel and asked his case be severed from the others facing charges. Perry will face a new preliminary hearing alone with a new defense attorney. Rosenberg is expected to set a new date Wednesday.
Davis officer Joshua Helton, who interviewed Perry and Reyes after their arrests and reviewed dashcam and cellphone footage from April 22, testified that Perry had said he saw the van and heard its horn honk “belligerently” before walking up to the the vehicle, hands raised while calling out an obscenity and asking, “What’s up?”
“He was acting as an aggressor,” Helton said. “He acted like he was trying to get ready to fight.”
Helton, who was not one of the three officers in the van, said Perry later told him that he regretted the incident. “(Perry) said if he had done nothing, people probably would have gone their separate ways,” he testified.
Helton also testified that video footage appeared to show Perry reaching for his waistband during the incident. No gun was recovered, but loose bullets were found in a backpack Perry carried that day, he said.
That testimony was attacked by defense attorney Jeffrey Raven as an attempt to “associate guns, bullets and African-Americans. These are defendants with no criminal record.”
Perry, who is black, told police the bullets were left in the backpack after an earlier trip to Mexico with the father of his girlfriend Reyes.
Prosecuting Yolo County Deputy District Attorney Ryan Couzens tersely rejected Raven’s assertion, countering that “two people saw Perry reach for his waistband.”
On cross examination, Helton testified that no other witnesses had reported seeing a gun to officers.
Defense attorneys also probed the officers’ decision to approach the crowd the way they did.
Helton testified that the officers saw a large crowd of people at Russell and College Park that spilled over into the roadway and feared a drunken driver might hurt them. The van’s driver, Davis officer Ryan Bellamy, made a U-turn and honked his horn to clear the crowd.
Bellamy said he “had done this for years” in unmarked cars at previous Picnic Day events, Helton testified.
Bellamy was clad in a blue “pest control” work shirt – a shirt defense attorney Mark Reichel said had special meaning for police working plainclothes duty.
“There’s history behind the pest control shirt,” Reichel said, addressing Helton. “Bellamy was told not to wear the shirt. He wears that shirt because he says he’s exterminating pests.”
Helton denied hearing Bellamy “ever refer to that shirt.”
Defense attorneys continued to question plainclothes officers’ conduct that April day, citing dashcam and cellphone footage that had been poured over earlier in the hearing.
One officer tossed Reyes around “like a rag doll,” Reichel said, the officer’s arm around Reyes’ neck, after Reyes appeared to kick the officer.
Reyes described the hold as a “chokehold” and a “headlock” to police. Others including Williams and Craver were grabbed by the head and neck – a common tactic, Helton explained.
“If you grab the head and body, you can control what the rest of the body does,” Helton testified.
Couzens said Tuesday the three Davis officers aboard the unmarked van will testify at the preliminary hearing.