Man Faces Trial for Shooting Up Car, but Judge Said Prosecution Stretching Charges, People Not at Risk

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By Esha Kher

SACRAMENTO, CA – Deputy District Attorney Saron Tesfai tried her best Tuesday here in Sacramento Count Superior Court to establish probable cause for the negligent discharge of a firearm based on the presence of people near the unoccupied vehicle the defendant allegedly shot.

However, the lack of sufficient evidence indicating the proximity of the civilians to the vehicle led Judge David De Alba not to hold the defendant to answer to this count.

But he did hold the accused for other related felonies.

Defendant Trent Marquez was charged with four counts, including discharging a firearm at an unoccupied motor vehicle, willfully discharging a firearm in a grossly negligent manner that could result in injury or death, unlawful possession of a firearm, and evading the police in a vehicle while driving.

After his preliminary hearing Tuesday, he’s set for trial for all but the one dealing with “result in injury or death.”

DDA Saron Tesfai had called five witnesses, and they wove together the course of events and corroborated a few key facts.

On Nov. 22, 2020, Defendant Trent Marquez allegedly fired at an unoccupied vehicle multiple times and then proceeded to ram into that vehicle and fled the scene, evading police officers and disregarding the traffic and safety laws.

All the witnesses corroborated the facts that demonstrated probable cause to hold the defendant to Counts 1, 3, and 4. But Count 2, whether discharging the firearm was done in a negligent manner, was still disputed and was the spotlight of this hearing.

DDA Tesfai called two witnesses to further his line of argument that the presence of civilians around the unoccupied vehicle was sufficient evidence for a negligent discharge because it could’ve resulted in injury or death.

Peace Officer Caleb Patterson testified that he interviewed a third party witness who observed the altercation and saw at least more than one person apart from the defendant at the scene.

“[Third party witness] lived in an apartment complex directly east of the shooting and she heard some arguing, looked outside and observed two male Black men arguing in the streets around the corner, then she heard gunshots, saw some female black adults fighting,” said Patterson.

Peace Officer Jose Paez indicated that he interviewed a third party witness who observed four people including a child in the area of the shooting, adding, “He [the third party witness] saw a male get into a truck, along with a female and a child got into the truck,” noted officer Paez.

Upon hearing these testimonies, Judge De Alba directed the line of argument to a discussion about what proximity to the vehicle these women and children were at and what level of risk they had of getting hurt.

To this, DDA Tesfai answered “all we know is that they were near the car when this was going on, we don’t know whether they were in the line of fire. According to peace Officer Patterson, the firing came from the street toward the vehicle and went through the driver side and the rear passengers side and through the window.”

However, Assistant Public Defender Brooks Parfitt pushed back.

“There’s no actual evidence or knowledge of what was on the other side of the vehicle at the time, and we don’t know what angle the bullets were shot at. Simply discharging a weapon does not mean it’s a negligent discharge,” emphasized Parfitt.

Judge De Alba agreed, declaring, “I agree with the defense that there’s not enough evidence to hold you to answer for Count 2. Obviously discharging a gun into a car is dangerous, there’s no evidence for the court that the car was occupied and the defense struggled to prove how near anybody was besides you [the defendant] was to the vehicle when the shots were being discharged.”

Esha Kher is an undergraduate student at UC Davis studying Political Science and Computer Science hoping to pursue a career in corporate law. She is passionate about legal journalism and political advocacy that provokes new perspectives and sparks conversation among the public.


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