By Ava Schwartzapfel & Gwynneth Redemann
SACRAMENTO, CA- In a preliminary hearing here in Sacramento County Superior Court this week, multiple witnesses testified about incidents involving Azhana Littlejohn, charged with two robberies, one of which involved alleged bodily harm to an elderly woman.
At the end of the hearing, Littlejohn’s case was set for trial Jan. 10, 2022.
Assistant Public Defender JoAnn Virata prefaced the hearing by stating that she was in the process of filing for a mental health diversion for Littlejohn, who is said to have late-onset schizophrenia.
According to Deputy District Attorney Tara Crabill, on March 1 and March 3, Littlejohn was involved in two robberies: one taking place at a Walmart and the other at an antique store in Sacramento.
The first testifying witness, an Asset Protection Associate from Walmart who was working the day of the incident, claimed to have seen Littlejohn walking through different departments of the store, adding merchandise to a cart.
According to the witness, Littlejohn grabbed two duffle bags and stuffed the merchandise into these bags, then proceeded to walk toward the exit without paying. He watched this occur from a CCTV that the store uses for surveillance.
The witness apparently contacted another Asset Protection Associate who was at the front of the store, to try to stop Littlejohn. This associate allegedly asked Littlejohn to halt, but there was no audio in the surveillance videos nor any video clip that showed this interaction.
The video surveillance did show Littlejohn leaving the store with the two duffle bags on her shoulders. She was then approached by two men in uniform.
Littlejohn immediately moved away from the officers with her hands up to her chest. She also appeared to drop the bag from her right shoulder.
The two officers forcefully grabbed Littlejohn and a struggle ensued. The witness claimed that Littlejohn “struck the officer two or three times with a closed fist.”
DDA Crabill emphasized that at the point when the officers were trying to detain Littlejohn, the merchandise was still in Littlejohn’s possession, hence the violent altercation.
PD Virata questioned the witness’s testimony, particularly pertaining to the fact that he mentioned multiple times an interaction between the second Asset Protection Associate and Littlejohn, but for which no evidence had been offered.
The witness said, in response to the public defender, that the CCTV cameras had no sound.
Virata went on, “So you did not actually hear them identify themselves [to Littlejohn] as Asset Protection?”
The witness admitted that was true.
PD Virata highlighted the fact that, in the surveillance, Littlejohn is seen immediately putting her hands up and dropping at least one bag when the officers approached, suggesting that the level of force used by the officers was unwarranted.
The Walmart officer, John Fields, then testified about the incident, including the moment when Littlejohn hit him in the face multiple times, noting, “When she hit me, the bag was still on her left shoulder.”
PD Virata referred back to the video evidence, showing that both duffle bags were on the ground when the struggle was still going on between Littlejohn and the officers.
It was unclear from either of the two videos provided by the prosecution at what point both bags were dropped and away from Littlejohn.
DDA Crabill moved on to the next witness, and the second robbery, the antique shop owner who was allegedly robbed and pushed down by Littlejohn on March 1.
DDA Crabill started by playing the audio recording of the 9-1-1 call made by “Doe” minutes after the robbery and assault. In the phone call, Doe explains what had just happened to the operator and says that she is following Littlejohn in her Prius.
Doe provides the operator with Littlejohn’s location, which is said to be in front of a furniture store, where she is trying on the dress.
In the phone call, Doe reveals to the operator that she is injured, stating, “Oh my gosh my back hurts.” Doe refuses the offer for medical help, saying that she “can’t afford it.”
After the recording ends, DDA Crabill asks Doe about the incident in more detail.
According to the testimony of victim Doe, on March 1, Littlejohn came into her store and tried to buy an “Asian [looking] dress” that was “pale pink with white beads.” Littlejohn allegedly asked Doe at the counter how much the dress would cost.
Doe said she told her that it was “$120” and Littlejohn proceeded to pull out a few checks from her backpack saying, “These are good. No problem.”
Doe then described the checks in great detail, stating “there were maybe three checks, all stapled together. They had the date 1999 on them and they were endorsed on the back.” Doe said she refused to take the checks, and the defendant was not pleased.
Doe testified she explained her reasoning, then proceeded to take the dress back and put it back on the shelf, but said Littlejohn allegedly yelled, “Put it down!” Doe imitated her actions by slamming her hands on the table in court.
Littlejohn, noted Doe, grabbed the dress, walked over to the nearest mirror, and was holding the dress up to her silhouette, and then asked Doe, “What are you gonna do if I go?”
To which Doe responded, “I’m gonna call the police!” Doe then described these following moments as filled with elevated voices as the witness and defendant were face to face.
Doe then explained that she saw the defendant exit her boutique, and she remembered not seeing the dress in the defendant’s possession. However, neither the dress nor the hanger remained in the changing room when the saleswoman went to check.
Later on in the investigation Doe met with a detective and left the following statement: “I landed on my back on a cement floor. I was so angry I jumped back up. I now realized she had to get me out of the way so she could sneak the dress without my seeing. As I was falling and getting up, she grabbed the dress and she was putting things back in her backpack. She had put the silk dress in the bottom of the backpack so I couldn’t see she had stolen it.”