By Julie Maruskin
A man that matched the description of the dispatch report skated away from the patrol officer after being stopped for questioning.
In a jury trial, Christopher Luster faced charges of two misdemeanor counts. The first charge was a sexual battery charge. The second charge was for resisting a public officer. These two violations of the law allegedly occurred on Aug. 2, 2018.
The first witness of the day was Officer Kent Chan with the Woodland Police Department. He testified to responding to a dispatch call on Aug. 2, 2018, that involved an incident where the reporting party was groped in front of a Marshalls. The call described the assailant as a black male adult about 20 to 30 years old, tall, thin, and riding a skateboard.
The officer headed north toward the Marshalls and in the direction which the man was reportedly fleeing from, however, he noticed a black male riding a skateboard traveling east. This man was wearing a hat and glasses. He continued to drive past this man because the officer was not sure he matched the description.
During the testimony, the prosecuting attorney, David Robbins, asked the officer to look at People’s Exhibit 3, which was a layout of Woodland. He was asked to mark the locations where he noticed the suspect and then later pulled him over. This information was shown to the jury.
After seeing the person who was traveling on a skateboard in a different direction, the officer kept searching for the reported suspect. He was then informed that this man also had eyeglasses and a baseball hat. At this moment the officer decided to find the man that he saw earlier. He made a U-turn and saw the same individual, who had a tan backpack and a blue shirt. The officer turned on his flashing lights on his patrol vehicle. When making contact, he explained that he was a police officer searching for a suspect in a sexual battery incident.
The officer testified to the man being evasive and claiming that he just got off work at the State Theatre. The officer told him that he needed to stay put. The man said he needed to go back to the theatre to find his eyeglasses and also claimed that he needed to catch a bus. When asked to identify himself, the man told the officer that his name was Christopher Luster. The officer asked Mr. Luster if he had been in the Marshalls, to which he responded that he rode by the store but did not go in. The prosecution presented People’s Exhibit 1, which was video surveillance that showed a man enter the Marshalls. This man matched Mr. Luster’s appearance.
Two minutes later, Officer Shepard came to assist Officer Chan. At this time a civilian also came up to the officer. The officer explained that, at this time, Mr. Luster left the scene on his skateboard. He went in a direction that was not toward the State Theatre. Officer Chan testified that he and Office Shepard both jumped into their patrol vehicles, flashing their lights and sounding their sirens, and searched the streets for approximately 10 minutes. Officer Chan went to the State Theatre and did not find Mr. Luster there.
The defense attorney, Deputy Public Defender Teal Dixon, asked the officer if, after trying to locate Mr. Luster, whether he did any investigative work. The officer responded that he found out Mr. Luster’s age range and found a photo of him. The officer claimed that, prior to the defendant skateboarding away, he had notified Mr. Luster that the lead investigating officer was on the way.
The second witness testified to going to Marshalls in Sacramento on Aug. 15, 2018. On this date she was walking to the store front and she claimed that she may have been looking at her phone but she doesn’t remember. What she did remember was looking down and wearing a baseball cap. A man faced her and did not move out of the way so she let him pass on the left of her, and as he passed he grabbed her rear. She testified to not seeing his face but only saw that he was tall, thin, African American and had a skateboard with bright orange wheels. She lastly added, when asked about the man’s hair, that it may have been red on the tips.
She claimed that she was upset and yelled at him, however, he skateboarded away. She reported the incident to the police. The prosecuting attorney asked the witness, “Did that person have consent?” to which she responded that he did not.
The witness claimed that during the incident the man said nothing, when responding to questions asked by Ms. Dixon about what the man did. The defense attorney asked the witness what the defendant was wearing. She responded that he was wearing a dark t-shirt, dark shorts with a lanyard coming out of his shorts. Ms. Dixon asked if she saw a group of photos of potential suspects. She responded that she had.
The third witness claimed to have met the defendant in 2018. He had come into the salon that she worked at, asking about hair coloring. He claimed he wanted to either do his hair with a blonde streak or a red streak. She provided her phone number so that the potential client could think about his hair and send her pictures of hair he liked. The man that she identified as the defendant asked her if he could call her for something else. She asked him what he meant and asked if he made up the conversation in order to get her number.
The witness then spotted the man in the salon with another hairstylist. During the process of getting his hair done he was staring at her. She felt uncomfortable and had someone walk her out to her car after her shift. She claimed to see him about a month later, and she was walking to Starbucks on her break when she saw a man skateboarding toward her. She claimed he was riding a skateboard with orange wheels. He appeared angry. As he went by he grabbed her rear. The witness yelled at him but he did not stop or say anything. She then told a Starbucks security guard and later called her husband; however, she did not report the incident to the police. She described the man as a tall, skinny black guy that was wearing cargo shorts and a t-shirt. She identified the man as the defendant.
The defense attorney asked the witness if he said anything to her. She said he did not. When speaking to the detective, she claimed that she was shown a group of photos of potential suspects.
The next witness was Detective Marcus Masingale. He was a sworn peace officer in the city of Sacramento and he specialized in sexual abuse and child abuse cases.
In this sexual battery case he was asked if he had interacted with Mr. Luster. The witness stated that he had. He claimed that he contacted Mr. Luster in August 2018. During that time he was tall, slender, had shorter hair with maroon or red dye in his hair. The detective had gone to Marshalls while investigating. He obtained footage that was presented as People’s Exhibit 8. The footage showed Mr. Luster riding a skateboard in the Marshalls.
In addition to obtaining the footage from Marshalls, Detective Masingale had conducted a search of Luster’s room. Within the room, the investigators found a skateboard box. The box had an image of a skateboard that matched the images that the detective saw of the skateboard that the suspect rode. People’s Exhibit 7 was presented to the jury and it was a photo that was taken of the empty skateboard box found in Mr. Luster’s bedroom. In the image, the skateboard on the box had bright orange wheels. The box had matched the skateboard that was confiscated. As well as the box, the prosecutor presented People’s Exhibit 9, which was a tan backpack which was found in the defendant’s room. The witness also found an Oakland Raiders lanyard.
The defense concluded the cross-examination asking if the skateboard was a long or short board, to which the detective described the board as being shorter. She also confirmed with the detective that the search was at Mr. Luster’s residence.
The prosecution anticipated that they had one other potential witness, one that they had requested to have come speak in court, however, that witness had not yet arrived. Therefore, the court went into recess and was scheduled to return at 2 p.m. for that witness testimony; otherwise it was time to present the defense’s case.