By Monica Velez
Victim Ernie Sotelo’s ex-wife’s testimony was interrupted during Eric Lovett’s criminal trial on March 18, 2016, as the morning started off with Sacramento Police Officer Jason Meyer.
Mr. Lovett is facing charges of gang enhancements, accessory to attempted murder after the fact and dissuading a witness.
Officer Meyer was being asked questions regarding an incident that happened in a Motel 6 parking lot with Mr. Lovett and his former girlfriend Lisa Humble. Officer Meyer said they were doing a routine patrol of the area, described as a high crime area, when they saw Mr. Lovett and Ms. Humble “rummaging” and doing a “frantic search” through an SUV.
Officer Meyer told Deputy District Attorney Robin Johnson that he made eye contact with Lovett and Humble and they immediately backed away from the car. Meyer said he saw Lovett dump a white crystal substance out of a small plastic bag and then heard a popping sound.
He said he found out later that the popping noise was a methamphetamine pipe that was broken on the ground by the car. When he searched the vehicle with his partner, Officer Christopher Clatterbuck, he found a silver revolver, three grams of methamphetamine, a scale and some prescription muscle relaxers in a backpack in the trunk.
Ms. Johnson asked Officer Meyer if he noticed any tattoos on the defendant and he said he saw the word “Broderick” tattooed on the back of the defendant’s head.
During cross-examination with Deputy Public Defender Martha Sequeria, the court found out that the car was registered to the mother of a friend they were staying with at the Motel 6. The prescription pills were also prescribed to the owner of the car.
It was confirmed that the backpack the contents were found in was not Mr. Lovett’s or Ms. Humble’s but their friend’s. The district attorney in that incident dropped charges against Lovett.
Officer Clatterbuck was the second witness of the morning. Ms. Johnson asked him about what Mr. Lovett did when he was getting charged with possession of a handgun and possession for sale. The officer said Mr. Lovett put his head down in a “defeated slump,” and his eyes started to water.
When asked by Ms. Sequeria, Officer Clatterbuck said it could have been possible for Lovett to respond that way because he was being charged with possession of items that were not his.
The third witness, who was in custody, was Mr. Sotelo’s ex-wife who resumed her testimony where she left off on March 17, 2016. She continued to talk about the white Mustang she saw when Michael Reyes shot Sotelo.
Sotelo’s ex-wife said she saw a female with bleached blond hair driving the car, and the car “parked real fast,” after Sotelo and his ex-wife bicycled past it.
She said she recognized the guy who got out of the car as Mr. Reyes, and said she knew him.
The ex-wife said he had a gun and was pointing it at Sotelo. She said Sotelo kept telling him to put the gun down and then she told her ex-husband to run and go. She said she heard five or six gun shots shortly after, but did not remember too much.
The ex-wife also said that she saw the driver of the car open the door, like she was going to get out, but then the door closed quickly, and the witness saw no one else in the car.
By Tiffany Yeh
The ex-wife of victim Ernie Sotelo, and West Sacramento Police Officers David Stallions and Louis Cameron testified this afternoon for the prosecution. Much of it revolved around whether and how many people the ex-wife saw or remembered seeing, and how the officers linked Liberty Landowski (co-defendant in the first trial) to the white Mustang and how they obtained her phone number.
The ex-wife of Sotelo resumed her testimony from the morning. She stated that it was stressful and she had been scared for Ernie Sotelo. She had never been shot at before. She described a guy jumping out of the passenger side of a Mustang. It was near the east side of Sycamore and Proctor Avenues, three blocks south of West Capitol Avenue.
The guy had something in his hand. She told Mr. Sotelo not to stop, to keep biking. He and Mr. Reyes confronted each other. She kept peddling, heard the shot, the words, “He got me,” then she got off her bike and ran to Mr. Sotelo.
Sotelo’s ex-wife spoke to the police at the scene, and she was later shown a photo lineup. Pictures of a female with blonde hair were shown to her and she was to identify the person she thought she saw driving the Mustang. She described the driver as having “bleached blonde hair.”
“I know right… I felt like pressure… I wasn’t sure… the woman had a black eye, and bleached blonde hair,” Ms. Rodriguez stated. She then said that she did not think the woman she first identified was the driver of the car (she had first identified Lisa Humble, another co-defendant in the incident, as the driver but the actual driver was Liberty Landowski). She described the police asking her over and over again to identify the driver, beginning in the morning and ending during the afternoon at the police station.
She saw two people in the front seat, and it looked like a full car and that there were people in the back – this is what the witness had testified to in the previous trial.
At the time of the incident, the ex-wife glanced into the vehicle and could see Mr. Reyes and another person in the front of the vehicle. Whether the witness did or did not see anyone in the back is debatable. It was clear that the defense and prosecution asked questions trying to gently push the witness into a definite yes or no on that point, with DDA Robin Johnson sounding like she conceded, but, not quite getting the answer she wanted, asked the witness the same question again (how many people did the witness see in the car), finally reaching a point where she was almost satisfied with the answer of, “It looked full.”
Sotelo’s ex-wife described not remembering everything, stating that she drank a lot in the past, so her memory is not very good, and that she’s “trying to forget the person who got shot.”
The ex-wife’s final statement about the people she saw in the car was that she saw the shooter, the driver of the car was a female, and that as to who or what was in the car’s backseat, it “could have been a hat” for all she knows.
Officer David Stallions is an investigator with the City of West Sacramento Police Department. On November 18, 2014, he filed a form for an emergency ping with T-Mobile on Ms. Landowski’s cell phone. First, he had searched her name on CopLink, which has information about contacts (victims, witnesses, contacts) and their phone numbers and addresses. Not much information about Ms. Landowski showed up. He filed the emergency ping form, which, when approved, allows an applicant to gain GPS location information from the phone. T-Mobile stated that the cell phone was at the Crowne Plaza, a hotel in Sacramento.
Stallions went there and then to the nearby La Quinta Inn. Officer Cameron had already made contact with Ms. Landowski there. Officer Stallions was the fourth person to enter the room at La Quinta, where Reyes, Humble (West Sacramento Police Officer Michael Duggins was taking her into custody when Officer Stallions noticed that Ms. Humble had a gun in her waistband), and Landowski were found.
Mr. Sotelo was at the UCD Medical Center and wasn’t doing well. It was believed at this time that Michael Reyes was the shooter.
Officer Stallions described not knowing where Landowski’s license plate number came from or how they knew that the vehicle involved was a Mustang, or that Landowski owned it. Michael Reyes’ name was known from Sotelo’s ex-wife’s statement.
Officer Stallions was in UCD Medical Center then and did not have his radio on.
Liberty Landowski’s phone was the only one that could be pinged, and they somehow couldn’t find any information on Mr. Reyes.
DPD Martha Sequeira pointed out concerns, through her questions pointed at the officer, that the officer applied for an emergency ping. It was a way that the officer did not have to apply for a search warrant with the court. The investigator/officer has to certify the form – that immediate danger of death or serious physical injury to any person (especially the person to whom the phone belonged, in this case, Liberty Landowski) was likely.
Ms. Sequeira expressed doubts that Ms. Landowski was in any danger (as being held against her will) during that point in time – the officers did not know her role in everything at the time and were simply seeking information about Ms. Landowski and her location.
Around this point, Ms. Sequeira stated that Officer Herrera (at the prosecution’s table) was nodding yes in response to a question about whether an emergency ping form was allowable as long as there was a potential danger, and that Officer Herrera was communicating with the witness in the box (Officer Stallions.)
The judge stopped the session for a break, and, after the jury left, he admonished Ms. Sequeira for voicing her concern while the jury was in the room. She asked the judge to subpoena the records/surveillance footage, and he responded that that is an administrative and not a judicative motion. He recommended that she talk to the court administration about getting the footage of the moment of Officer Herrera’s alleged nodding.
The judge stated that “no one should be trying to communicate with the witness.” He asked Sequeira, next time, to stop the speaker and ask for sidebar to discuss the issue, instead of speaking of such an issue while the jury was present.
Ms. Johnson had a complaint about Ms. Sequeira loudly discussing with her client and defense team about previous answers given in reports from the previous trial.
Officer Stallions, after the break, described Officer Brian Schmidt as the person who gave him Liberty Landowski’s number.
Officer Cameron is also an investigator, with the West Sacramento Police Department’s Special Investigations Department. Many of the questions that both sides asked Cameron were about how they connected Ms. Landowski’s phone to the white Mustang. He also described Officer Schmidt as the person who most likely gave him information about that.
Cameron was the first person at the La Quinta Inn. He was in his uniform and in an unmarked car. He was parked in the parking lot trying to look for the white Mustang (which he did not see there.)
Minutes later, he noticed Eric Lovett standing in the driver’s side doorway of a small sedan. Detective Cameron knew Lovett from past contacts and knew that Lovett grew up and lived in West Sacramento and that was of interest to the detective, because the shooting was in West Sacramento, so he was focusing on possible West Sacramento suspects. The officer drove straight past Eric Lovett, into a back corner.
Lovett walked into the hotel. The officer read the license plate to the dispatch as he passed the small sedan. The vehicle came up as belonging to Lowell Landowski (Liberty Landowski’s father). Cameron set a perimeter around the hotel.
Lovett went into the hotel in the middle area of the hotel. Cameron then went to the front of the building and stayed there for five to ten minutes. He noticed Lovett at the outside walkway of the hotel (near the center to the front of the hotel), and starting to go down a stairwell. The officer contacted Lovett then, telling Lovett to put his hands up and get down.
Lovett complied and had his cell phone in hand. Cameron searched Lovett, finding a hotel card key (plastic) that said “Welcome,” with no room number on it, and a lighter. Officer Michael Duggins joined him.
The card key was placed in a window area as Cameron and Duggins knocked on the door. Reyes opened the door, and two females (Liberty Landowski and Lisa Humble) were also in the room. Cameron handcuffed Reyes. Then other officers came into the room and searched the room.
It was around 10:27am when Officer Cameron had attempted to locate Liberty Landowski (the shooting had occurred around 8am the same day). Cameron believed that Officer Schmidt gave him information about Liberty Landowski. He went to Ms. Landowski’s house and her father’s house.
Liberty Landowski had visited Eric Lovett several times when he was in jail. When the officer looked for Lisa Humble’s address around 3:42pm, he was not able to find her.
The officer helped with the clearing of the room and the warrant, and then the CSIs came. He did not help with the second search. The key was in the window of the room (228), had been handed off to another officer, and was then given back.