Crime - Sacto 911

Jury hears argument in fatal 2014 hookah lounge shootout

Sacramento Sheriff's Department crime investigators gather evidence from an early morning shooting in the 1900 block of Fulton Avenue on Sunday, July 13, 2014 in Sacramento, Calif.
Sacramento Sheriff's Department crime investigators gather evidence from an early morning shooting in the 1900 block of Fulton Avenue on Sunday, July 13, 2014 in Sacramento, Calif.

For 25 seconds, a close-range gunbattle raged in the parking lot outside The Hookah Lounge Smoke Shop in Sacramento as more than 30 shots were fired in the early-hours shootout on Fulton Avenue’s 1900 block.

When the shooting stopped just after 1 a.m. July 13, 2014, Tyrell Lamont Hall, 20, was dead, fatally cut down in the crossfire.

“We’re dealing with two individuals who decide they want to have a little duel in front of the hookah lounge, and there lies Mr. Hall,” Casey Newton, prosecuting Sacramento County deputy district attorney, told Sacramento Superior Court jurors on Wednesday.

Salvador Martinez was a close friend of Hall’s and is a co-defendant in his killing. Martinez and a second man, Tana Dania, face trial on suspicion of murder in Hall’s death, accused of triggering the after-hours gunfight that killed the young man. A third man, James Wallace, sat beside them, facing assault and firearm charges for his alleged role in the fatal shootout.

“Multiple shots in a crowded space is nothing but a conscious disregard for human life,” Newton told jurors. “ Mr. Martinez is just as much a cause of Mr. Hall’s death as Mr. Dania.”

Closing arguments in the weeks-long murder trial of Martinez and Dania began Wednesday before Sacramento Superior Court Judge Delbert Oros and continued Thursday.

The lounge was busy that summer night, the club billing the night “Sexy Saturday,” with a DJ, dancers and throngs of people inside.

Martinez, his girlfriend and a group of friends, including Hall, were celebrating Martinez’s birthday. Dania drove from Stockton, armed with a handgun, said Martinez’s attorney, and met a group of his own.

“This night in July was supposed to be a fun time, but their plans changed. What they planned – a celebration – was taken from them,” said Martinez’s attorney Jesse Ortiz.

Dania “was ready for something to happen,” Ortiz said. “Something did happen and Mr. Dania was in the middle of all of it. He draws his gun and fired it.”

A confrontation in the lounge had spilled into the parking lot outside, then a second fight started just after 1 a.m. before gunfire rang out, scattering the large crowd that followed the brawl, prosecutor Newton said.

Dania, Martinez and Wallace each had weapons, Newton told the jury. Dania, he said, circled the scrum to get into firing position. Martinez, Newton said, was shot in an arm when he joined the fray.

“How many guns does it take to go to a hookah lounge?” Newton asked at one point on Wednesday. “There are guns everywhere. Dania has one. Martinez has one.”

Newton said Hall was ducking at the sound of the gunfire just feet away when he was struck in the head by a stray round.

Ortiz argued that Martinez never had a gun, calling his client as much a victim as his fallen friend Hall.

Martinez was also caught in the hail of bullets fired by Dania and a shadowy figure firing from the south end of the parking lot whose image was captured on the edge of the security camera’s range, Ortiz said.

“Martinez didn’t do anything but get shot that night” Ortiz said. “Martinez should not be sitting here.”

Dania’s attorney, Jeffrey Fletcher, argued Thursday that his client fired his weapon in self-defense.

“Mr. Dania responded to the shots being fired,” Fletcher said. “Neither Mr. Newton nor Mr. Ortiz said he started the gunbattle. Neither said he fired the first shot.”

Darrell Smith: 916-321-1040, @dvaughnsmith