By Pedro Maturana
The trial of Sok Cheat Pin resumed Wednesday with the prosecution calling more witnesses to the stand. Pin is being charged with illegal possession of a firearm, and discharge of a firearm.
Deputy District Attorney Preston Schaub called Officer Scott Farnsworth from the West Sacramento Police Department to the stand.
On the night of November 29, 2018, Farnsworth was called to investigate gunshots fired at an apartment building in West Sacramento at around 7:30 p.m. At the time Farnsworth worked with a K9 partner named “Bolo,” specializing in suspect apprehension and detection of firearms and explosives.
When Farnsworth arrived at the scene, he and Bolo searched the apartment where the gunshots were allegedly fired. He also searched the parking lot, several cars and the neighboring yard. Despite the searches, they did not locate any firearms.
Farnsworth explained that when Bolo detects explosives or gun residue, he gives a passive alert in which he sits and looks at Farnsworth. While Bolo gave him a passive alert several times during the search, they did not find anything. Farnsworth explained that Bolo may have detected the odor of a firearm or explosive even though it wasn’t currently there. Farnsworth testified that pungent smells may interfere with Bolo’s ability to smell.
Deputy Public Defender Martha Sequeira asked Farnsworth to explain to the jury Bolo’s training and his successes in finding explosives on the job. Bolo had found a firearms or explosives three times. This was the first case in which Bolo detected explosive materials, but nothing was found.
Farnsworth explained that a GSR (gun shot residue) test was conducted on Mr. Pin. GSR tests for the presence of certain materials on the hands and clothing of a subject which would determine if they had fired a gun.
Sequeira questioned Farnsworth about his body camera dying when he was at the scene. He does not remember when it died, nor reviewing any footage afterwards. Farnsworth testified that his camera was known to have issues in the past and he notified the department when he noticed it was dead.
Sequeira asked Farnsworth if he had done everything to find the gun. He confirmed that he looked everywhere in the small 800-square-foot apartment and in the Infinity in the parking lot. Bolo gave a very strong signal in front of the Infinity.
Ms. Sequeira asked him if the apartment complex had a high crime rate. Farnsworth said yes. Sequeira then asked him if it’s possible that anyone else could have had a firearm in that parking lot. Farnsworth said yes.
The prosecution called Officer William Silvermaster from the West Sacramento Police Department to the stand.
Silvermaster responded to a call regarding shots being fired. He was directed to make contact with the residents of Apartment 9 and gather security footage from the building. Silvermaster watched the footage with a manager. The footage came from a camera on the second-floor balcony pointed toward Apartment 9.
The prosecution showed the footage to the court. At approximately 7:17 p.m. a person comes out of one of the apartments and appears to begin firing a gun straight in front of him about five times. Silvermaster then testified that the man in the footage is standing in front of Apartment 9.
According to Silvermaster, Mr. Pin denied ever shooting a gun that night. Mr. Pin said he was sleeping before being woken up by an argument in his apartment. He then went to his car to smoke marijuana for about two hours.
Silvermaster testified that he believed the man in the footage was Mr. Pin because of his baggy clothing and height.
Sequeira asked Silvermaster if he had written a report of his search. He did not remember. Additionally, his body cam was dead during the investigation.
Sequeira asked Silvermaster about a juvenile who came out of the apartment when the officers made a call for everyone to come out. Silvermaster said he didn’t remember.
Sequeira questioned Silvermaster about taking a statement from Mr. Pin after he had invoked his right to remain silent. Silvermaster testified that the other officers did not notify him that he had invoked the 5th.
The prosecution called Deputy Neay Chhalng from the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department to the stand. Chhalng was asked by the Yolo County Sheriff’s Office to translate a recording from Cambodian to English.
Mr. Schaub played the recording and asked Chhalng to translate some parts of what was being said to the jury.
“The male says, ‘did they find the gun?’” said Chhalng, “the male says, ‘take it and hide it.’”
Sequeira asked Chhalng if he has ever been asked to translate in a courtroom setting. This was his first time. Additionally, Chhalng had no knowledge whatsoever about this case. He was only asked to translate the audio. Chhalng had never been peer reviewed for his performance translating and he has never been paid for speaking a foreign language.
Sequeira asked him if he could spell the word “gun” in Cambodian. Chhalng testified that he did not know how to read or write Cambodian.
Sequeira asked Chhalng how many different words for “gun” there are in Cambodian. Chhalng said only one. Then she asked him if the word for “gun” is different than the words for “play gun,” “real gun,” or “blank gun.” Chhalng said he didn’t know of Cambodian words for those terms and he would just use the term “gun.”
The prosecution will call one more witness to the stand on Thursday.