Cerebral palsy had left Dominique Baker in a wheelchair since childhood, but it wasn’t the crippling disease that killed him that November night in 2012. Three bullets did, striking down the quadriplegic caught in the crossfire of a gunbattle on south Sacramento’s 65th Avenue.
Tyrie Allen Tholmer, 20, who was 17 at the time of the shooting, is on trial for murder in Sacramento Superior Court, accused of firing the shots that killed Baker. Jurors heard closing statements Monday morning and are now deliberating Tholmer’s fate.
At 17, Tholmer was already a gang veteran, recruited into the Meadowview Bloods while still in grade school and two years removed from a 2010 felony gun conviction. A prosecutor said the teen packed a loaded 9-millimeter handgun the night of Nov. 7, 2012, and went looking for trouble.
“He went looking to kill, and kill he did,” Sacramento Deputy District Attorney Thien Ho told the jury in his closing statement Monday as members of Baker’s family and a placid Tholmer, sitting with his attorney, looked on.
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One thing the prosecution and defense agreed on: Baker was an innocent bystander.
Baker “was a kind young man who struggled with cerebral palsy,” said Michael Wise, a defense attorney for Tholmer.
Ho, the prosecutor, said the intended target was Daymon Wood, a rival of Tholmer’s.
Wise and Ho argued about who opened fire first. If Tholmer is found guilty, whether he shot first or was defending himself against Wood when the fatal shots were fired could be the difference between murder or a lesser manslaughter charge.
Who Tholmer intended to kill in the middle-of-the-street shootout outside Wood’s home scarcely mattered, Ho said.
Baker was dead and Ho had witnesses who put Tholmer at the scene, including a woman who heard the shooting even as she tried to shield her toddler daughter from flying bullets, and a fellow Meadowview Bloods foot soldier who said Tholmer fired the first shot.
Wise said in his closing statement that a teenage rivalry over a girl, not the gang life, sparked the shooting, and that his client returned fire in self-defense. Weeks of verbal sparring and taunts came to a head with the shooting, Wise said.
He argued that Tholmer shot Wood only as Tholmer was fleeing from gunfire. Tholmer was hit by gunfire in the foot and leg and driven to a hospital, where doctors worked on his wounds until the early morning hours, Ho said.
The prosecutor depicted Tholmer as a gang-hardened killer who had asked his brother for the best remedies to remove gunshot residue from his hands (answer: urine or pickle juice, his brother said); and worked up a self-defense tale “so weak that it wasn’t even his first choice.”
Ho said Tholmer first told police he’d been shot on nearby 68th Avenue by a passing black sedan, then that his wounds were self-inflicted, the result of a misfiring gun, before settling on a him-or-me self defense.
Nearly three years later, with Baker dead and Tholmer’s fate in jurors’ hands, Ho said Tholmer now needs to “pull up a chair and sit down to the banquet of his circumstances.”
“What a waste of two young men,” Ho said. “What a waste of two lives.”
Call The Bee’s Darrell Smith, (916) 321-1040.