By Mariel Barbadillo
On November 9, 2016, Judge David Rosenberg presided over the trial of the People v. Alamar Houston. Mr. Houston is accused of hitting five people with his car and punching a woman at Walgreens in Sacramento on June 30, 2015.
“RG,” a former Walgreens employee, took the witness stand.
Deputy District Attorney Garrett Hamilton asked RG if he clearly saw Mr. Houston’s face while the defendant was allegedly inside the store. RG confirmed that he saw his face and he was “100 percent certain” when identifying the defendant’s photo among a set of potential suspects.
After the alleged assault, Mr. Hamilton asked RG if he saw the defendant leave the store and drive away. The witness stated that he saw the defendant grab a water bottle and walk out of the store. He then saw an SUV with a broken windshield speed off. He did not see the defendant get into the SUV, however, but he recalled that the same car had been involved in a police chase earlier in the day.
Deputy Public Defender Dean Johansson proceeded to cross-examine the witness. RG described the defendant entering the store “loudly,” but he did not pay attention to any particular words the defendant was yelling. RG’s coworker, “PK,” had kicked the defendant out of the store, but he later returned.
RG said Mr. Houston asked PK where she is from. When she responded, Mr. Houston asked, “Where are you really from?” RG does not remember how PK responded, but immediately after she answered, the defendant “socked her in the jaw for no apparent reason.” He then grabbed a water bottle and walked out of the store.
During redirect examination, RG disclosed that he didn’t “think anything of it” at first because they would “always get those people,” presumably referring to people causing a disturbance.
Mr. Hamilton asked if either RG or PK were wearing uniforms during the incident. RG said their usual uniform is a blue shirt with the Walgreens logo. However, neither of them were wearing the uniform at the time. PK was wearing a pink shirt, according to RG’s recollection, and RG had taken the uniform off during his break.
The People’s next witness was Officer Louis Cameron from West Sacramento. He met with PK about a week after the defendant had punched her.
Officer Cameron said PK was unable to identify who had punched her from the set of pictures of potential suspects.
The officer, on the other hand, was able to identify the defendant through surveillance footage. The store had one surveillance camera over the register and one pointing towards the front door.
The footage showed that around 6:30 PM, Mr. Houston walked into Walgreens and went straight to the counter. There was no audio, but it was apparent that there was an exchange of words between the defendant and PK before he punched her. Mr. Houston was only in the store for approximately 24 seconds.
Officer Cameron had requested the video from the Walgreen’s manager, and a Community Service Officer (CSO) recently picked it up. However, they realized just this morning that they were given the wrong footage. The tape showed the time between 5 and 6 PM, and the incident occurred 25 to 30 minutes later.
Mr. Johansson cross-examined the witness by asking if he had made the effort to go to Walgreens and retrieve the accurate footage. Officer Cameron revealed that everyone who worked at Walgreens on the night in question no longer works there. Mr. Johansson then speculated that it is uncertain whether the video still exists or if it has been destroyed. Officer Cameron confirmed this.
The officer also confirmed that he is testifying solely based on his recollection of events that occurred 15 months ago. He did not recall seeing RG in the footage; he may have been there, but the officer was not certain.
The People then called West Sacramento PD Officer Cody Coulter, the arresting officer, to the witness stand. After the arrest, Office Coulter took Mr. Houston to Sutter General Hospital. The defendant had a puncture consistent with a dog bite on his leg and an injury on the side of his head. There was bleeding, but it was not extreme.
The purpose of taking the defendant to the hospital, Officer Coulter said, was to treat his injuries and ensure that he was safe for incarceration.
The officer did not recall if Mr. Houston was given painkillers or any type of medication, but he remembered that he had refused to give a blood sample.
The People showed the jury footage from Officer Coulter’s dashboard camera. Around 11:04 PM, the officer and the defendant returned to the car. Mr. Houston’s speech was slightly slurred, but, at one point, he is heard saying “I apologize for my behavior earlier.”
Officer Coulter then drove Mr. Houston to an area to finish paperwork prior to checking him in at the Yolo County Jail in Woodland.