By Nathan Yanez
In October of 2016 officers of the West Sacramento Police Department stormed the house of an ex-felon who might have obtained a firearm when not permitted to possess one.
On October 12, 2016, Dontrell Hewlett was pulled over by Sergeant Eric Angle while members of West Sacramento’s special investigation unit and ATF (Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms) searched Hewlett’s home for a possible firearm he was not permitted to have, as he had previously been convicted of a felony. Mr. Hewlett is being charged with five counts including possession of a firearm while having previous felony charges, possession of ammunition, threat to commit crime, and child endangerment. The defendant also waived his right to a trial by jury and instead decided to have a court trial. Four different witnesses were called to the stand in this court trial.
The prosecution first called to the stand “Ms. W,” who had previously been romantically involved with the defendant. Ms. W stated that she and Mr. Hewlett had been a couple from 1996 to 2008 and had one child together. In her testimony, Ms. W revealed that Mr. Hewlett is currently dating another woman, “Ms. S,” with whom Mr. Hewlett has two children and who currently has a restraining order on Ms. W because of past confrontations. In the testimony, it was revealed that one day while at a party Ms. W’s son was on the phone with his father, Mr. Hewlett, and his brother. After the phone call, Ms. W claimed that her son told her that Mr. Hewlett expressed that he wanted to shoot Ms. W. A complaint and report was filed at the West Sacramento PD the next day by Ms. W and her son, who both warned the police of the threat just in case. To Ms. W’s knowledge, she had no recollection of Mr. Hewlett owning a firearm.
In the cross-examination, the defense attorney Russell Miller asked Ms. W about a handwritten note the son had written saying that the threat that Mr. Hewlett made against Ms. W was not true. The defense attorney also asked about an incident in February 2013 where Ms. W called the police to report an incident of domestic violence, but once officers arrived Ms. W refused to deliver sufficient information for the allegations again Mr. Hewlett. The defense was suggesting that Ms. W could have been angry enough with Mr. Hewlett to want to get him in trouble.
The next witness called to the stand by the prosecution was Officer Lewis Cameron who works for the West Sacramento Special Investigations Unit. He wrote the search warrant and executed the warrant with help from his team and ATF. The West Sacramento Police Department conducted surveillance of Mr. Hewlett before executing the search warrant. This was to make sure that Mr. Hewlett was not home when they were searching the house for the firearm. Officers working with Mr. Cameron and the special investigations unit, before conducting the search, pulled Mr. Hewlett over about two blocks away from his home. Ms. S and her children were home and directed Officer Cameron to the closet where the firearm was located in the master bedroom. The firearm was located on the right-hand side of the closet. Officer Cameron found eight rounds in the magazine of the firearm, with no rounds in the chamber of the gun. Ammunition was also found in a separate bag. The gun appeared to be a .357 Smith and Wesson and it was tucked between men’s pant in the closet. A gun lockbox was also found on the floor of the closet. Officer Cameron was shown pictures of the house, closet, and firearm by the prosecution to confirm the area where the firearm was located. It was also confirmed by Officer Cameron that the serial number on the gun matched the serial number on the gun case.
In cross-examination, it was revealed that there were eight to ten officers present and that the firearm was registered to Ms. S’s father, which was confirmed by Ms. S herself and a check of the registration done by the police department.
Officer Mark Flatley was next called to the stand by the prosecution and had been employed by the City of West Sacramento from 2009 to September 2018 as a peace officer and a canine handler. Officer Flatley’s partner was a German Shepherd trained to patrol and sniff out explosive materials, including gun powder. While the search of Mr. Hewlett’s house was being conducted, Officer Flatley was called to the scene where Mr. Hewlett was being pulled over to conduct a search of the car with the trained dog. The dog indicated that there was or could have been a firearm on the driver’s side of the vehicle. After a search by officers, no firearm was found in the vehicle but they could assume that one might have been there within the past 24 hours. In the cross-examination, the defense questioned Officer Flatley about what the trained dog is alerted to, and it was confirmed that the dog cannot sniff out actual guns, just gun powder.
The last witness to be called for the day was Sergeant Eric Angle, who was the officer in contact with Ms. W and her son in regard to the threat against Ms. W. In his testimony, it was revealed he had a three-way call with Ms. W and her son about the claims against Mr. Hewlett. The testimony was cut short because of time restraints. The court decided that the trial will resume the following day, Thursday, July 11, 2019, with the continuation of Sergeant Angle’s testimony as well as Ms. S’s testimony.