By Sufi Sadati
A burrito, Mentos mints, and a half-pound bacon and cheese hamburger put the defendant, Terence Michael Bates, on trial for robbery charges at an ampm on West Capitol Ave. in West Sacramento.
The trial for Terence Bates resumed this Tuesday with the complaining witness, “Mr. S,” being the first to testify. He was assisted by a court interpreter.
On the morning of November 16, 2018, Mr. S was at work where, around 7:57 am, he was allegedly punched by Mr. Bates after trying to stop him from stealing. Video surveillance taken by Officer Danielle Blount’s body camera showed four surveillance monitors, the top left having captured these crucial moments.
The video shows a man in a cream-colored trench coat stuffing merchandise inside his clothing. Mr. S is shown confronting the man at the door, where he says he asked Bates to confess and return the stolen property. This is when he said Terence Bates swung at him, hitting him in his neck.
According to Mr. S, the defendant stole five to seven items worth $40.00-50.00. Yet his rather contradictory statements flipped as the defense questioned him on what he specifically received back from the theft. From his memory, Mr. S could only name a burrito, Mentos, and a hamburger which totaled less than $10.00, although he speculated that iced tea and chocolates were stolen as well.
Awaiting police back up, Mr. Bates was held on the ground by customers who witnessed the attack. When asked if Mr. S recognized the defendant as the culprit of the attack, he was unable to identify him.
When dispatched officers arrived, Mr. S, who was worried about jeopardizing his citizenship, testified that he “did not want to pursue it, but police said it was not up to him, it’s a government case.”
Next, Officer Blount was called to take the stand.
Officer Blount was the primary officer at the scene. She did recognize Terence Bates as the same man she arrested.
She was not the first to arrive at the ampm, which led her to be the one to examine Mr. S, as he was complaining of pain to the left side of his neck, while her colleagues spoke with Mr. Bates. A photograph depicted a dark discoloration found on Mr. S’ neck. His reluctance to sign documents about the attack was countered in vain by Officer Blount’s assurance that this would not affect his citizenship.
Due to the inexperience of Mr. S, a copy of the surveillance video could not be downloaded, which resulted in Office Blount’s body camera being used to record the evidence.
When questioned on what criteria Officer Blount used to distinguish the robbery charge from simple battery, she indicated it was determined by the introduction of the stolen burrito and Mentos.
The defense was able to extract a testimony from Officer Blount’s body camera, confirming that her state of mind when watching the surveillance video was “distracted.” Her investigation ended by an unfocused observation of the video, although she felt the punch accounted for an element of robbery: force. The defense attorney suggested Officer Blount’s lack of experience in dealing with robberies would be an important feature in determining whether she made the right call. With no other witness statements, or even a statement by the accused, she felt she had enough information to justly arrest Terence Bates on charges of robbery.
At pre-booking, Mr. Bates told the officers he had a half-pound burger stuffed in his underwear.
Backing Officer Blount was seasoned Officer Ken Fellows, who had actually described her as being “an outstanding officer.”
He too was present at the incident, and had two conversations with the defendant.
The trial will resume around 8:15 am on Wednesday, continuing with Officer Fellows’ testimony.