Crime - Sacto 911

Murder charges dropped against man in Rancho Cordova shooting

Marcus Gammage will soon be freed from jail after Sacramento County prosecutors on Friday dropped first-degree murder charges against the 20-year-old arrested in January, accused in a fatal shooting outside a Rancho Cordova New Year’s Eve party.

Gammage, of Stockton, was set to face a preliminary hearing in the case Friday in Sacramento Superior Court, six months after his Jan. 3 arrest in the shooting death of Darien McLaurin.

The hearing was to determine whether enough evidence existed for the case to proceed to a trial.

Gammage’s counsel, Sacramento attorney Jeffrey Fletcher, said he was planning to argue for a dismissal at Friday’s scheduled preliminary hearing when he received the call from the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office on Thursday evening that prosecutors were dropping the case against his client. Fletcher said on Friday that Gammage would be released from custody “sometime tonight.”

“I was surprised. I was preparing for the case before I got the call. This is rare – highly unusual,” Fletcher said.

The District Attorney’s Office on Friday would only confirm that it had dismissed the case against Gammage, but declined to say whether prosecutors plan to refile charges or otherwise discuss the case. It is unclear if there is another suspect in McLaurin’s shooting death.

“I’d always believed my client from the beginning. His parents – they said, ‘This is not our child,’ ” Fletcher said. “He talked with (investigators). He didn’t hide from them. But, it’s still a tragedy.”

McLaurin, 23, was shot just before 2 a.m. Jan. 1 as a party at his home in Rancho Cordova was coming to an end.

Fletcher said McLaurin’s younger sister had thrown the party without parental permission, advertising the gathering on social media. McLaurin walked in on the party, Fletcher said, and demanded the guests leave before the shooting started.

Sacramento County sheriff’s officials said an argument outside the Nosler Court home preceded the shooting and that Gammage pulled out a gun and fired the fatal shots.

Gammage was arrested two days later without incident, sheriff’s officials said.

Fletcher said at least one witness saw Gammage walk to his car during the party and briefly argue with an inebriated McLaurin, before gunfire rang out, killing the 23-year-old.

Gammage has no criminal history and has never had a firearm, Fletcher said. Nevertheless, he became a suspect in McLaurin’s killing after witnesses told investigators that they saw the two arguing before the fatal shots were fired.

Gammage, held without bail at Sacramento County Main Jail since his January arrest, seemed stunned at the prosecutors’ decision, Fletcher said Friday.

“He couldn’t believe it. That’s all he could say. When you’re in jail and you don’t see people leave jail on this kind of crime, you lose your confidence,” Fletcher said. “When you’re next, it’s hard to keep your confidence, even when you’re not guilty.”

Darrell Smith: 916-321-1040, @dvaughnsmith