By Elizabeth Cho
SACRAMENTO – Faron Mello is being charged with two felonies—murder and possession of a firearm by a felon—and despite what appeared to be a mountain of evidence against him in a preliminary hearing here in Sacramento County Superior Court, he insisted on pleading not guilty.
Faron was bound over at the end of the preliminary Thursday for a Nov. 4 trial, but his lawyer did cast doubts on witnesses, law enforcement investigators and even a video.
The court was told by investigators that, on the night of September 7, several people arrived at the JB Lounge & Grill for a birthday party. Among that group was Kenneth Evans and his family. After a few hours in a crowded lounge, Evans and his group decided to go outside for some fresh air. It was then when the chaos began.
In court, Deputy District Attorney Kristen Anderson called Det. Amanda Smith, who said that once Evans’s group went into the parking lot it encountered Faron Mello and his family.
While Smith (and other law enforcement witnesses) never explained what initially sparked the fights, they all stated that one of Mello’s relatives made the first move and choked one of Evans’ relatives. And according to the prosecution’s second witness, Deputy Sou Saephan, Mello’s relative, also took out a handgun and pistol-whipped Evans’ relative who had also been choked.
This started several altercations between the two parties, some of them trying to break up the first fight. According to one of Evans’ relatives, they saw Mello observing the different fights and he was watching Evans the entire time.
All witnesses, interviewed by the five law enforcement witnesses at the preliminary hearing, then stated that everyone heard around two to four gunshots.
At the sound of gunshots, everyone in the parking lot started running away, according to witness statements. And Deputy Saephan stated that, immediately after the shooting, one of Evans’ relatives allegedly saw Kenneth Evans leaning up against his car and clutching his body. Mello was reportedly 10 feet away.
Evans managed to get into his SUV and was joined by his original group. Once in the car, everyone in his original group reported that Kenneth stated, “That n***a Faron shot me, get me to the hospital, I’mma die, I love y’all.”
Evans was then rushed to the Mather VA Hospital and one of his female family members called 911 to report the incident. Det. Smith was sent to the hospital, where she saw an SUV with medical gloves near it, and blood on the back seat and the ground. It was later that she was able to confirm that it was Evans’ car.
Kenneth Evans died that weekend. Due to Evans’ passing, this changed any previous charge to murder.
After the incident, Mello fled the scene (according to the prosecution’s fourth witness, Det. Kevin Lawrence, who reviewed the surveillance tapes from around the area). Once several witnesses identified Mello in a lineup and stated that he was the shooter, the search for Mello began.
The day after the shooting, the prosecution’s fifth witness, Det. Vitaly Prokopchuk, received an anonymous call about the shooting. The female caller stated that she saw Mello shoot Kenneth, but that it was from inside JB Lounge, not from the parking lot. At the time, Prokopchuk did not question the anonymous caller on the inconsistency.
A few days after the incident, Mello was found and apprehended in Oregon. It was discovered that he was trying to get into contact with his ex-girlfriend, with whom he was still on good terms. Det. Prokopchuk went to Oregon to conduct a follow-up investigation and was there when Mello was arrested.
It was later discovered that Mello had put a video on social media saying that he was very mad and a lot of that anger was directed toward Evans. He said that he was “coming for” Evans and aimed to insult him by saying that he was also having sex with Evans’ girlfriend. This video was recorded and put onto the Facebook group called “Justice for Kenny.”
Throughout the hearing, private Defense Attorney Larry Pilgrim strongly implied that the statements from Evans’ relatives were tainted, noting Evans’ relatives had no way of getting to the police station to file a report, so they were driven by law enforcement officers, and both Det. Smith and Prokopchuk were unable to prove, during the rides to the station, that the law enforcement officers did not coach the witnesses.
Then, Pilgrim started to attack the credibility of statements by Evans’ relatives.
The main witness had originally told a deputy that one of her and Evans’ relatives was choked. But later on, she told Deputy Saephan that that relative was choked and pistol-whipped, meaning that she saw a gun. Deputy Saephan could not explain the inconsistency.
During Det. Lawrence’s statement on the multiple surveillance videos taken during the shooting, Pilgrim tried to blur the videos’ credibility.
According to Det. Lawrence, in one of the videos, you can see a dark object in Mello’s left hand. However, also in the video, Mello was punching with his right hand or his dominant hand. Pilgrim then led the Court to wonder why Mello would shoot with his non-dominant hand, which Det. Lawrence could not answer for sure.
The defense also questioned the prosecution’s third witness, Deputy Shannon Borge, who was a patrol officer assigned to the Mather VA Hospital to take statements.
According to Deputy Borge, she found brass knuckles in the pockets of Evans’ clothing. When the defense asked if she had noticed any blood on them, Deputy Borge was unable to remember, leading the defense to question her on her note-taking skills. In doing this, the defense appeared to be attacking Deputy Borge’s capability as a former patrol officer.
Throughout the different witness statements, Pilgrim also questioned them each on the results of the bullet fragments. None of them were able to give a clear answer as to what the results were and some of them appeared to not even know if the bullet fragments were submitted for examination.
The defense emphasized that the possibility of tainted statements, inconsistent witness statements, confusing video surveillance, and uncertain law enforcement officers could all lead to one thing: Faron Mello is not guilty.
However, Judge Stacy Boulware Eurie thought otherwise and decided to move forward with a jury trial, set for Nov. 4.
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