By Macy Lu, Julia Asby, Jose Medina
ALAMEDA — Defendant Jesus Danilo Lima returned to Alameda Superior Court for the fifth day of his murder trial Tuesday to resume testifying on what happened on the night of “drive-by” shooting, as well as to the nature of his relationship with the murder victim and the victim’s friends.
The day’s session consisted first of a direct examination by Defense Attorney Laurel Arroyo and later a cross-examination by Deputy District Attorney Maggie Calonge.
Ms. Arroyo opened the morning examination by confirming that Lima had encountered his own cousin, who is also a witness, a total of four times before the Sept. 24, 2017 shooting.
According to Lima, the first time was in front of the witness’ house a couple years prior to the shooting when Lima went to pick up his girlfriend from a hangout with the witness’s sister. The second time was at a house party, where the defendant’s friends, younger brother, the defendant, and this witness were all present.
Defendant Lima claims he was inside the house when his friends and brother got into an argument with a group of four people, including Lima and his cousin. Later that evening, his friends and brother found him inside and told him, “Let’s go.”
When asked if he recalled, according to the witness’s testimony, walking up to the witness and saying, “I know where you live, and I am going to kill you,” Lima denied having ever said that.
The third time Lima and the witness interacted was when the witness “tried to approach [Lima] at school to try to talk to [him] about what happened at the party,” but Lima said he ignored him and kept walking with his headphones in his ears.
The fourth time the two met was in front of a school, where their interaction resulted in a fist fight, admitted Lima, who added that after the witness and his friend pulled up in front of Lima, the witness showed him the gun in his possession before getting out of the car to approach Lima.
Lima testified that when the witness asked him whether he “remember[ed] what he told [him]” he “didn’t know what [the witness] was talking about” even after the witness attempted to explain the context of his question.
He repeated that he did not remember several times before the witness finally asked if he “wanted to fight.” When the witness persisted in his provocation, Lima exclaimed, “Take the ring off, the ring and the chain off. If you want to fight, then let’s fight.” Lima does not recall having sustained any serious physical injuries after the fight.
Arroyo then proceeded to question Lima on what took place during the Sept. 25, 2017, police interrogation.
She began by asking why Lima had “told a few lies” in the first 15 minutes of the investigation. In response, Lima said, “I don’t know. I felt scared. I was nervous.”
Additionally, she wanted to know why Lima had falsely reported to the police that “the truck was stolen,” that he “hadn’t driven the truck all evening,” that it was “the other guys who brought the gun,” and that he had “grabbed the gun from those guys.”
Lima answered, “I don’t know. At the time we were scared because of everything that had happened.” However, after the initial fifteen minutes, he claimed to have “told them the whole truth.”
Finally, when questioned why he had claimed the fourth photo shown to him during the police interrogation was of his brother when clearly it was him, standing by his dad’s truck with the murder weapon, Lima first replied he doesn’t “remember that conversation.”
Next, Arroyo moved on to discuss Lima’s perspective on the sequence of events that occurred during the Sept. 24 incident.
As with previous Vanguard reports on the case, the details of what precisely happened around the time Lima confronted the victim and his friends are murky.
During a previous hearing session, one witness had claimed that Lima had shot at them while driving by in his dad’s red truck and that the entire incident took a mere “two seconds.” That same witness had stated that it was Lima, not Lima’s friend, who had initially pointed the gun in their direction.
A litigation graphics specialist had also noticed last Thursday that the gunshots on a video clip compiled from a nearby surveillance camera did not even correlate with the actions portrayed on the footage itself. To him, it sounded like the gunshots were added on top of the footage.
According to Lima, however, the confrontation played out over a longer course of time and in a significantly different manner. He said he, his friends, and his dad were on their way to go hunting at his dad’s boss’s ranch when they made an excursion to a liquor store.
“So was it totally by chance that you ran into them that night?” Arroyo asked. “If you had (not) stopped at a liquor store this whole thing would not have happened?”
“Yes,” Lima said.
Lima recalled that after his dad had entered the store, one of his friends pointed a gun at a car driving past, containing people who seemed to be taking pictures of his dad’s red truck.
Unsure why there “were strangers taking pictures” of his dad’s truck and fearful that “they could shoot [his dad],” Lima took the gun from his friend, placed it on his waistband, and started to approach the car.
He stated that, by then, he did not “plan on using it,” but that he had brought it with him anyway “for protection” in case the other group also had one.
On approaching the group, he said he realized that the victim’s cousin, the one he had previously fought at school, was part of the group. Prior to that point of time, Lima did not know he was even present.
That knowledge did not deter him from his original goal which was to ask the victim and his friends why they were taking photos, to tell them to “take it easy,” and underscore that he does not personally know them.
“They were surrounding me, in front of me, and they were yelling at me,” Lima testified. They’re faces ‘were angry,’ making him feel “scared and nervous” so that he “backed up to the truck.”
Only after he was hit in the face and the neck did he fire the weapon and shoot the victim.
As her final question, Arroyo asked, “How do you feel now, knowing that someone died when you pulled the trigger?”
“Bad,” Lima confessed, “because I didn’t want to do any harm to anybody.”
“As of Sept. 24, 2017, you knew those cousins hung out in the same car, correct?” Calonge asked.
“No,” Lima replied, “I don’t remember that…I don’t remember [the victim’s cousin] saying he knew them.”
When grilled further on how many times he might have seen the group of friends together in the car they had occupied the night of the incident, Lima said, “two or three times” but that he “did not know who they were.” He only recognized the victim’s cousin.
“So, what you said on Sept. 24…‘I don’t know you,’ that’s possibly not true,” Calonge noted in light of his confession.
Like Arroyo, DDA Calonge inquired whether Lima ever saw the person his brother and his friends were arguing with at the house party and received the same answer—that he could not see which of the four individuals his brother and friends were arguing with.
He also said he did not recall having ever seen those individuals or the victim’s cousin on Facebook or Instagram posing with guns before.
In addition to the lies Lima had told the police during his investigation, it also came to light that he may have attempted to convince the police that two of the victim’s friends, including the cousin, had tried to carjack his dad’s truck. To this allegation, Lima said, “I don’t remember saying that.”
DDA Calonge continued to press Lima on his insistence that he did not know any of the victim’s group until he was approached. Despite not knowing any one of them, DDA Calonge pointed out that he still carried a gun with him as he got out of the truck and approached the group.
Lima tried to explain that he tucked a gun in his waistband as he confronted the group because he felt threatened by them. Calonge then brought up one of Lima’s misstatements when he was interrogated by the police. She asked him if “one of the lies you told the police was that one of these men tried to steal your father’s truck is that correct?”
He said that is correct and in an effort to explain his hostility toward the victim’s group at the time of the incident he stated that “in my country when strangers take pictures of a car, it’s because they want to do harm to them.”
Calonge was unsatisfied with Lima’s justification since it was established that he at least knew one of the members in the victim’s group.
Calonge then asked Lima why he would bring an unloaded gun if he thought there would be a confrontation with the victim’s group, Lima responded, “I honestly did not know if it was loaded or not.” He added that he planned to keep it at his waistband and not use it.
Once again displeased with the defendant’s responses, she pressed him again on the issue by indignantly asking, “You’re telling the jury that at the time you shot the victim you didn’t think anything was going to come out of that gun? Then why pull the trigger?”
Lima was asked again why he brought a gun when he thought there was going to be a confrontation. He answered that he didn’t know if it was loaded or unloaded but had planned on keeping it on his waistline. When asked by Calonge why he pulled the trigger Lima responded, “It was a reaction I had. A bad one. I just pulled it and shot.”
Calonge continued this line of questioning and Lima admitted when he shot the gun he was scared and nervous and he only shot his gun because he was defending himself.
Calonge responded by asking Lima, “Which is it? An unintentional bad reaction or you were only shooting to save your life?” pointing out how Lima’s story had changed throughout his conversations with police and even during his time on the stand.
Lima’s jury trial is set to reconvene this week.
Macy is a junior from Orange County, CA studying Communications and English at UC Davis. She loves meeting people, reading books, and writing creatively.
Julia Asby is a third year student at UC Davis majoring in Political Science with a minor in Sociocultural Anthropology. She is originally from Sacramento.
Jose graduated from UC Davis with a BA in Political Science and has interned for the California State Legislature. He is from Rocklin, CA.
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