By Lauren King
On the afternoon of February 13, 2015, the preliminary hearing for Lisa Humble, Liberty Landowski, Eric Lovett and Michael Reyes began before Judge Paul K. Richardson at the Yolo County Superior Courthouse. The four young adults were allegedly involved in the shooting of a Latino male. The four defendants have remained in police custody since their arrest. There is a warrant out for the victim’s arrest, as well, after he fled on foot from his hospital room at the UC Davis Medical Center and failed to obey a court subpoena.
Deputy District Attorney Amanda Zambor called her first witness, Officer Alisha Slater, to the stand. Officer Slater is a sworn peace officer for the City of West Sacramento. On November 18, 2014, at 8:06AM, Officer Slater was dispatched to 2025 Proctor Ave. in West Sacramento after a nearby resident reported that she had heard five or six gunshots fired outside her home.
The first thing that Officer Slater noticed upon arriving at the scene was a young Latino man lying in a flowerbed. The man was moaning and he had blood spilling from his nose. The officer also noticed blood on his shirt. Officer Slater called for medical services and it was soon discovered that the man had suffered two through-and-through gunshot wounds to his forearm and abdomen. The man told Officer Slater that he knew who had shot him. Shortly after, he appeared to be unconscious and was thus transferred to the UC Davis Medical Center without any further questioning.
Officer Slater also spoke to the victim’s wife at the scene. She told the officer that “Chubs” shot her husband. Officer Slater recognized this alias from a previous illegal drug investigation, and believed that his real name was Michael Reyes.
Defense attorney Rodney Beede briefly cross-examined the witness. Mr. Beede is Ms. Humble’s defense attorney. Officer Slater testified that, at first, the victim’s wife gave the officer a fictitious name. However, once Detective Bryan Schmidt informed Officer Slater of the woman’s real name, she came clean. Officer Slater believed that the victim’s wife was under the influence of a central nervous system (CNS) stimulant.
The victim did not explicitly tell Officer Slater that he had been shot and the officer did not locate any weapons at the scene. Officer Slater noticed that the victim seemed reluctant to name the shooter and that he was wearing a backpack.
Ms. Zambor asked a few short follow-up questions before Officer Slater was excused from the stand. Ms. Zambor presented the officer with a picture of the scene at 2025 Proctor Ave. The officer identified the victim’s clothes, as well as the flowerbed in which she had found him.
Officer Slater did not do any tests to verify that the victim’s wife was on a CNS stimulant. After many cases involving illegal drug use, the officer felt that she could immediately recognize the signs of someone under the influence. Methamphetamine was later discovered in the woman’s belongings.
Ms. Zambor then called Detective Schmidt to testify. Det. Schmidt is a peace officer for the City of West Sacramento. Det. Schmidt also responded to 2025 Proctor Ave. The detective briefly spoke with the victim’s wife before transporting her to the police station for questioning.
The wife told Det. Schmidt that “Chubs” had shot her husband. The detective presented her with a photo lineup that included Mr. Reyes. The wife immediately identified Mr. Reyes as the shooter. Det. Schmidt could not tell if she was in shock or under the influence, but she appeared to understand his questions. No drug testing was conducted.
The victim’s wife told Det. Schmidt that she and her husband were by a skate park, planning to drop off a backpack on the way to a probation class. The two of them were traveling on bicycles when the wife observed a white Ford Mustang pull over near them. The Mustang was a newer model with a convertible top. The wife feared that they were going to “get jumped” and so she urged her husband to pedal faster.
She then saw Mr. Reyes exit the car from the front passenger seat and he began to chase the two of them. The wife could only make out the word “mother—-” come from Mr. Reyes as she quickly pedaled ahead of her husband. She noticed that Mr. Reyes had a small black pistol. The wife kept yelling at her husband to pedal faster, but he lagged behind her.
The wife heard six or seven gunshots ring out behind her and then her husband’s voice saying, “He got me.” She quickly stopped, turned around, and knocked on the door of a residence to have the police called.
The wife recognized Mr. Reyes because he used to be a friend of her family. She saw a bleached blonde white woman around the age of twenty sitting in the driver’s seat of the Mustang. She was worried that the driver would also exit the vehicle and come after her but the driver remained seated. She recognized the driver from a party she attended a few years ago. The wife also observed two people sitting in the backseat of the Mustang—a male and a female. Only Mr. Reyes exited the vehicle.
The wife identified Ms. Humble as the driver from a photo lineup. Det. Schmidt recalled Ms. Humble’s name because she had been a frequent runaway when she was younger. Det. Schmidt conducted research on social media and discovered a picture of Ms. Humble and Ms. Landowski inside a vehicle together. On Ms. Landowski’s social media, Det. Schmidt found a picture of a newer, white Mustang convertible.
The victim’s wife identified the Mustang from a photo lineup and officers located it in a motel parking lot. Officers ran the vehicle’s plates and found that it was registered to Ms. Landowski’s father. Det. Schmidt overheard a call come in from Mr. Landowski, trying to report his vehicle stolen.
Det. Schmidt contacted Mr. Landowski and was told that the vehicle was not actually stolen. Mr. Landowski informed the detective that his daughter had the keys and that he was trying to protect her. He did not explain why he wanted to protect his daughter.
Mr. Beede then cross-examined the witness. Det. Schmidt testified that the victim’s wife was suspicious of the Mustang due to her past experiences. She had told the detective that she had a troubled history with people from West Sacramento. She was also a parolee at large at the time of questioning.
According to the victim’s wife, Mr. Reyes’ father had gotten into a fight with her husband at some time prior to the shooting. At the time of the shooting, Mr. Reyes was chasing them “hella fast” and the victim was riding his bicycle slowly.
When the incident took place, the driver opened her door, but remained inside the Mustang. When the wife looked at the photo lineup and identified Ms. Humble as the driver, she said to Det. Schmidt, “She looks like some girl I knew. I don’t know. What’s her name… She had like short bleached blonde hair in a ponytail.” She thought that she had seen Ms. Humble several years ago at a party while they were all drinking alcohol and doing drugs.
Det. Schmidt asked again, “Did you get a good look at the driver?” and the wife responded, “Kind of…I don’t know, it looked like her…I know her hair and everything, but I don’t know. This looks like her, it could be her from far away. She had that face.” Mr. Beede pointed out that Ms. Humble’s hair was close to brown. Ms. Zambor volunteered to locate Ms. Humble’s booking photo for the next session of the preliminary hearing so that they could ascertain Ms. Humble’s hair color at the time of the shooting.
Defense attorney James Granucci then cross-examined the witness. Mr. Granucci is Mr. Reyes’ attorney. Mr. Granucci asked the detective to go into more detail about the search of the wife’s backpack. Det. Schmidt told the court that he did not ask if she had done drugs, but her backpack had been searched. They found methamphetamine and two baseball bats inside. One of the baseball bats had razor blades attached to the end of it. Det. Schmidt did not ask the wife about the contents of the backpack.
According to the wife, the victim got off his bicycle and confronted Mr. Reyes. She heard the gunshots but did not actually see Mr. Reyes shoot the gun. She also told the detective that she was near Proctor Ave. when she heard the gun go off.
Det. Schmidt was unsure of whether the backpack the officers searched was the same backpack that the husband and wife were trying to drop off before the shooting occurred. The wife was arrested after questioning for violating her parole.
Defense attorney Richard Staff then began his cross-examination of the witness. Mr. Staff is Ms. Landowski’s defense attorney. Mr. Staff asked Det. Schmidt a few questions about the victim’s interview. The victim was in the hospital when he spoke to law enforcement. He articulated with some difficulty due to the nature of his injuries. Det. Schmidt presented him with a photo lineup that included Mr. Reyes. The victim identified Mr. Reyes as the shooter.
Deputy Public Defender Dean Johansson then asked the witness a few questions. Mr. Johansson is Mr. Lovett’s attorney. Mr. Johansson asked Det. Schmidt again about the other people that were in the Mustang at the time of the shooting. The detective admitted that it was challenging to get a response from the wife about the exact number of people in the car or to get a definitive answer as to their genders. The wife’s behavior was frenetic during the interview.
Ms. Zambor then called Detective David Stallions to the stand. Det. Stallions is a peace officer for the City of West Sacramento. Det. Stallions got an emergency ping request for Ms. Landowski’s cellular phone. He discovered that Ms. Landowski had last used her cellular phone at a Crowne Plaza Hotel in West Sacramento. When law enforcement arrived, Ms. Landowski had already checked out.
On the evening of November 18, 2014, another officer, Detective Michael Duggins, recognized Mr. Lovett at a La Quinta Inn nearby. Det. Stallions assisted the officer with the search of room 228. When the detective arrived, Mr. Lovett had already been detained. Inside the hotel room, he saw Ms. Humble, Ms. Landowski, and Mr. Reyes. Ms. Humble had a loaded black .22 automatic pistol in the waistband of her pants.
Mr. Beede briefly cross-examined the witness. Det. Stallions reported that it was Mr. Reyes who answered the door when law enforcement arrived at the hotel room. The detective did not know how or when the gun got into Ms. Humble’s pants. He also did not, personally, smell or test the gun to see if it had recently been fired.
Mr. Granucci then asked the detective additional details about the victim’s interview at the hospital. Det. Schmidt and Det. Stallions conducted the interview a few days after the shooting. The interview was taped; however, there was a portion that was not recorded because Det. Schmidt continued talking to the victim for a little while longer after Det. Stallions thought the interview was complete. During this time, Det. Schmidt talked to the victim about his gang behavior.
When the victim was shown the photo lineup, he circled Mr. Reyes’ name and said, “That kinda looks like him.” Schmidt pressed, “Yes or no?” “Yeah, yeah. My back was turned, so I can’t say for sure it was him,” the victim responded.
Mr. Staff then asked Det. Stallions more about the pinging of Ms. Landowski’s cell phone. Det. Stallions testified that he did not recall how they got her phone number, but law enforcement was concerned that Ms. Landowski might be a victim in the case because she did not have much of a criminal history.
Mr. Johansson then asked a few final questions before Det. Stallions was excused from the courtroom. Det. Stallions elaborated that he did not know how Ms. Landowski was involved in the investigation, but he was concerned that she might be in danger. An employee at the Crowne Plaza Hotel told law enforcement that they might have seen Ms. Landowski cross the street to the La Quinta Inn. Det. Stallions did not see Mr. Lovett inside the hotel room with the other three defendants, but saw him after he was already in custody.
Ms. Humble declined to waive the one-session rule for the hearing and so the preliminary hearing was scheduled to resume at 8:30AM on February 17, 2015. It is possible, however, that the hearing will have to be continued if two of the defense attorneys have other trials that pose insurmountable time conflicts.