Crime - Sacto 911

Did mental break cause man to hit 3 cyclists near W. Sacramento?

Jonathan Jackson’s bike lies on the road after the 17-year-old cyclist was struck by an SUV on June 30, 2015. Alamar Cyril Houston is accused of being the driver and is on trial in the incident.
Jonathan Jackson’s bike lies on the road after the 17-year-old cyclist was struck by an SUV on June 30, 2015. Alamar Cyril Houston is accused of being the driver and is on trial in the incident. Special to The Bee

The three bicyclists were riding along South River Road between Clarksburg and West Sacramento early on a June evening last year when the sport-utility vehicle sped toward them.

The first cyclist tumbled in a heap as the driver shoved him off the road. The two other riders – teens training for a race that weekend – took the brunt of the speeding vehicle, their bodies smashing into the SUV’s hood and then the windshield before landing, in one prosecutor’s words Friday, wherever physics took them. One of the boys suffered a major head injury in the collision. He later lapsed into a coma, but survived the wreck.

Alamar Cyril Houston “basically mowed them down,” Yolo County Deputy District Attorney Garrett Hamilton told jurors Friday. “He rode right through them.”

The trial for Houston, 39, began Friday in Yolo Superior Court in Woodland. He faces 19 counts, including three counts of attempted murder, along with charges of felony hit and run and assault with a deadly weapon connected to the violent spree June 30, 2015.

An attack on a cashier at a West Sacramento Walgreens drugstore that followed the collision led West Sacramento police to chase the stolen Hyundai Tucson said to have been driven by Houston into downtown Sacramento.

Witnesses testified Friday that a man identified as Houston zigzagged in a stolen truck through traffic on southbound Interstate 5 across Yolo County on the morning of June 30, 2015, splitting a path at one point between a tractor-trailer and a pickup truck before sliding to a stop in the center median near Sacramento International Airport. The man then jumped out of the truck and bolted across northbound I-5 toward the airport and a car rental lot, where he drove off in the Hyundai.

That evening, the prosecutor said, Houston plowed into the cyclists. The head injury suffered by the teen cyclist was so severe, Hamilton said, that doctors were forced to open the boy’s skull so his rapidly swelling brain wouldn’t crush itself against bone.

The methamphetamine-stoked rampage ended with Houston’s arrest by a West Sacramento police officer and his canine partner on a Sacramento side street, Hamilton said.

Houston’s attorney, Yolo County Deputy Public Defender Dean Johansson, told jurors that mental illness, not methamphetamine, gripped Houston that June day. He pointed to blood tests after Houston’s arrest that showed no signs of alcohol or drugs in his system and said Houston did not possess the mental state required to commit the list of crimes he faces.

“This is a different man,” Johansson said, as a hulking Houston sat hunched at the defense table. “He wasn’t medicated. His back story isn’t June 30, it’s before that.”

Johansson said Houston had been released days earlier from the Glenn County jail in Willows and walked 17 miles into tiny Maxwell in Colusa County, where he later drove off with a mini-truck parked near a diner under the effect of what Johansson called a “psychotic break.”

“This was a different person. He’s thinking with a psychotic brain,” Johansson said. “What we’re seeing here is a mental health disorder.”

Houston’s prison stays for crimes in Sacramento, San Joaquin and Solano counties stretch back to the late 1990s, Hamilton said.

The trial continues Monday before Yolo Superior Court Judge David Rosenberg.

Darrell Smith: 916-321-1040, @dvaughnsmith

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