By Henry Stiepleman
SACRAMENTO – A Sacramento man’s preliminary hearing for a gang-related murder charge concluded last week, and it didn’t go well.
On September 28, 2017 the defendant, Lakquan Solomon drove up and shot and killed another Sacramento man as part of a series of gang-related shootings, alleged the Sacramento District Attorney’s office.
Nearly three years later, on June 18, 2020, Solomon underwent preliminary hearings in front of Judge Lawrence Brown in Sacramento Superior Court. Kristen Andersen prosecuted the case, while Pete Harned, a former prosecutor, represented Solomon.
Solomon is facing three counts: murder, discharging a firearm from a motor vehicle, and prohibited possession of a firearm, according to the Sacramento Superior Court Case Access System.
Andersen called forward two witnesses, both Sacramento detectives, during the afternoon session of the preliminary hearings.
The first detective was questioned about the movement of a white Buick around the scene of the shooting.
According to the detective, the white Buick could be seen from surveillance cameras around three a.m., the time of the shooting, entering the same area where the shooting took place, on Ehrhardt Avenue, west of Franklin Boulevard. The vehicle could be seen soon after exiting onto Franklin.
Harned, on recross, kept his questioning brief.
He asked if there was any footage of the area of the shooting, to which the detective responded, “No.”
Then he asked if there was any way to know if someone had gotten out of the car. Again, the detective responded, “No,” but added that no other car was seen going in or out of the area at that time.
The second detective was called in as an expert in “African-American gangs” in Sacramento. Andersen questioned him in order to identify Solomon as a member of a Sacramento gang.
The prosecution began by leading the detective through an explanation of “African-American gangs” in Sacramento.
The detective explained that there are two prominent rival gangs in Sacramento: G Mobb (Stars Up) and the Oak Park Bloods.
Within the Oak Park Bloods there are multiple subsets, according to the detective, and one of those subsets are the Underworld Zilla or Ridezilla, which are essentially the same group.
According to the detective, this group claims about 50 members, with no particular hierarchy.
After an in-depth history of the antagonistic gangs, the prosecution proceeded to have the detective explain how he is able to identify who is in the Oak Park Bloods.
As they went through known, validated members of the Oak Park Bloods, the detective relied mainly on tattoos, neighborhood affiliation, and with which group, Oak Park Blood or G Mobb, did arrested individuals asked to be placed with in custody, in order to substantiate his conclusions.
The prosecution then turned the detective’s reasoning towards the defendant. Specifically, Andersen was focused on whether or not the detective could identify if Solomon was an active Oak Park Bloods member in 2017, at the time of the murder.
The detective based his answer on reports he had reviewed involving the defendant, the defendant’s social media, tattoos, and photos and videos found on the defendant’s phone, to determine Solomon was an active Oak Park Bloods member in 2017.
The prosecution then turned to a police report from 2015 in order to show the defendant had previously had in his possession a firearm similar to one discharged at the shooting.
According to the detective’s notes and recollection of the report, on August 13, 2015 at 9:50 P.M., the defendant had been seen on Sacramento Light Rail with a shotgun in his backpack.
The defendant had claimed that he was holding it for a friend because, “Because it was hot,” which meant to the detective that there were a lot of police around at that moment.
The defendant was also identified as having a backwards “Z” tattoo on his neck and was known as “King Zilla,” according to the detective.
The prosecution then moved on to the many shootings of prominent gang members in 2017, leading up to the shooting the defendant was in court for.
At the beginning of July, a member of the G Mobb had been shot and killed. Later on in July, 2017, Solomon had to drive a friend who had been shot to the hospital.
In September, 2017, two more murders took place, both of these of well-known G Mobb members.
Shootings in a short period of time “Sparks all kinds of problems,” said the detective. He continued to say that, “Respect… is synonymous with fear.”
The prosecution then submitted two exhibitions to illustrate that Solomon was in fact an active Oak Park Bloods member at the time of his alleged murder.
Defense counsel then had the opportunity to cross-examine the second detective.
Harned began by focusing on the difference between being a validated member of the Oak Park Bloods and being an associate. He pointed to previous examples brought forth by the prosecution.
He then asked the detective if it was reasonable to say that a young, black man who grew up in a poverty-stricken neighborhood had no choice but to associate with a gang.
The detective responded that it isn’t reasonable.
Defense counsel then asked if it could be as simple as wanting to not be beat up.
The detective responded that it could be, but the impetus must be more than just wanting to not get beat up.
Harned brought back his first point and continued to challenge the notion of Solomon as an active member of the Oak Park Bloods in 2017.
Harned claimed that because Solomon has a backwards “Z” tattooed onto his neck, that was evidence that Solomon had dropped out of the gang by that time.
Defense counsel ended by asking a series of questions related to the detective’s ability to identify if the defendant had actually posted certain photos or videos on social media.
For the most part, the detective was unable to.
In final arguments, Harned focused on one main point: there was not enough clear evidence that his client was the one who fired shots from the white Buick that killed the victim.
Andersen broke down her final argument into two parts.
First, it was clear to her that the defendant was the driver of the white Buick at the time and place of the shooting. She stated that the vehicle belonged to him, the driver was wearing a unique sweater that Solomon had worn before, and he had admitted to being the driver at a later time.
Second, it was clear to her that Solomon was the shooter. The driver’s side of the car was on the side that the victim had been shot from. Additionally, a shotgun was fired and there was gunshot residue found on the driver’s side of the car.
Based on the evidence and the testimony of the witnesses presented, Judge Brown found that there was enough evidence for all three counts against Solomon to proceed.
Judge Brown added that the enhancement the prosecution had added to counts one and two were also to proceed.
Solomon is scheduled for an arraignment hearing on June 30, 2020 at 8:30 A.M. in Department 63.
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