Homeless Defendant Held to Answer for Petty Theft of Snacks, Backpack, Bicycle, and Vandalism – Though He Returned Bike

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By Sahaily Zazueta

WOODLAND, CA – A homeless man appeared in Yolo County Superior Court this week for a preliminary hearing. He faces second degree burglary, petty theft, and two counts of vandalism for allegedly stealing a bicycle and backpack containing snacks and cash and vandalizing two vehicles in Davis on the evening of March 23.

Willie Henry Smith, III, who was released on zero bail, was found liable to stand trial on the felony charges by Judge Stephen Mock, who found the evidence presented to be sufficient and held Smith to answer for all charges—even though Smith returned the allegedly stolen bike to the victim.

Officer Alex Torres from the Davis Police Department was the only witness called to the stand to testify during the hearing, and said he had responded to a call of a male vandalizing vehicles near the intersection of Fifth Street and Spafford Street on the evening in question.

The two vehicles that were vandalized were a black Volvo and a white semi-truck, both of which had “heavy front windshield damage,” according to Officer Torres. The cost of the total damage to the Volvo was estimated to be $3,000, and the damage to the semi-truck was estimated to be $4,000.

A witness reported to Officer Torres he saw a male throw a rock at the white semi-truck, damaging the window. The witness described the suspect to Officer Torres as “a Black male adult, wearing no shirt, tall and slender, short hair, and a beard… pushing a red shopping cart.”

Deputy District Attorney Jing Ko showed Officer Torres photos of the damaged vehicles with a large cement block on the hood of the white semi-truck and another cement block near the black Volvo, which were accurate depictions of what Officer Torres had observed.

During his assessment of the scene that night, Officer Torres said he heard over his police radio that a male who matched the suspect’s description had been detained in front of the Creekside Apartments on Fifth Street.

Over the course of the evening, Officer Torres spoke to two victims who had their property stolen and the owner of the black Volvo. One victim had his backpack stolen from inside his place of work, the Village Bakery. The other victim, also an employee of the bakery, had his bicycle stolen from the front of the bakery.

The first victim described his backpack as black, containing a Squirt soda bottle, a pastry, cookies, and $300.

The backpack was stolen from a large storage container on the southside of the bakery building where the victim would sleep between his job at the bakery and his second job.

Inside the storage container, there was a cot with bedding. The victim’s backpack had been near the cot. Officer Torres stated, “I was shocked to see signs that someone was living in this storage container,” but the victim told him that other bakery employees also slept in the storage container.

The second victim stated he had seen a male adult with a red shopping cart enter the bakery and exit with the bicycle. The victim confronted the suspect, who then returned the bike. The bike was worth about $250 and in good condition.

Officer Torres went to the Creekside apartments and identified the male who had been detained as Smith. He spoke to Smith, who was shirtless and wearing blue jeans, with a red shopping cart nearby. Inside the shopping cart, Officer Torres saw an empty Squirt soda bottle, cookies, a pastry, an old black backpack, and a new black backpack.

When shown the new black backpack and the contents of the shopping cart, the first victim confirmed they belonged to him. His backpack also still contained his $300 in cash.

When asked if he had vandalized two vehicles, entered the bakery, and stolen a backpack, Smith told Officer Torres he had not. Smith had admitted to returning the bike to the second victim.

Officer Torres told the court that the second victim had identified the suspect by his hair, his pants, and the fact he was shirtless.

On cross-examination, Officer Torres admitted that the witness, who had called to report the two vandalized vehicles, was not given the opportunity to identify the suspect, and as such, did not identify Smith.

Deputy Public Defender Daniel Hutchinson also confirmed with Officer Torres that the witness who reported the vandalism stated he saw the suspect throwing rocks at the vehicles, not concrete blocks.

The only lasting damage allegedly committed by Smith included the vandalism of the two vehicles and drinking the soda.

DPD Hutchinson asked the court to release Smith on supervised own recognizance (OR) release based on the facts that Smith is only 30 years old and did not have a criminal record until four years ago, when he became homeless.

DPD Hutchinson told the court that he had spoken to Smith’s grandmother. If Smith is released on supervised OR release, Smith will stay with his grandmother with transportation provided by his mother.

“I think the big issue with Mr. Smith is that he’s homeless in Davis. We’re seeing these crimes that he’s committing, and if the court imposed supervised OR that he remain out of Davis…. I think that would satisfy many of the concerns. These are not violent crimes. He has a relatively minimal record, no prior felonies,” DPD Hutchinson told the court.

The prosecutor expressed her concern with releasing Smith and suggested keeping him in custody to get him into a mental health treatment program.

Judge Mock noted how long it can take for an accused to begin participating in treatment programs, even if they are interested in participating in those programs.

Ultimately, Judge Mock authorized Smith’s supervised release with the conditions that he will be subject to searches for stolen property and required to stay out of Yolo County.

Smith’s arraignment prior to trial setting is scheduled for April 26.

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About The Author

Sahaily is a senior undergraduate student at California State University Long Beach, majoring in Criminal Justice with a minor in Human Development. She aspires to become a public defender.

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