By Oliver Camarena and Veronica Miller
WOODLAND, CA – Witness testimony continued this week here in Yolo County Superior Court in the trial of Theo Kelso and Isaiah Berkley, facing robbery, use of a firearm, and attempted murder charges.
This trial has been long-awaited, as covered by The Vanguard’s previous article, though it is finally underway after more than three years of waiting.
Deputy District Attorney Jesse Richardson called a witness, who recalled the day of the incident, Feb. 3, 2019, admitting she knew Theo Kelso during their shared time in high school several years prior.
She then went on to testify that on that late morning, as she was walking her dog, she heard what she believed to be gunshots and then saw two cars pass by her moments later.
Soon after the cars passed by her, she recalled hearing more gunshots, totaling around two to six shots. The two cars that passed by were a red sedan with two occupants in the front seats and a silver sedan according to the witness. She also recalled that the cars were speeding, estimated at 40-50 miles per hour.
DDA Richardson then presented the witness with several photos in which she confirmed that the cars in the photos were similar to the ones she saw that morning. She said she recognized the person in the passenger seat of the red car, Theo Kelso, and then positively identified him in court.
She recounted conversations with the police after that incident in which she said she recognized Kelso and confirmed him once more in a photo of a police lineup that she had been given after the incident several years ago.
During cross-examination, defense counsel Benjamin Williams brought up the witness’ statement from the past in which she told an officer that it all happened so fast that she couldn’t really get a good look.
Williams then asked about the witness’ relation to Kelso in high school and that this was eight to 10 years prior, with the witness never actually interacting with Kelso in high school. Williams also asked the witness if she had seen any guns or muzzle flashes, to which she responded that she had not.
The witness recalled the car being around 50 feet away from her at the closest point and that she only saw the car for a few seconds.
Williams concluded his cross-examination by bringing up the witness statement to an officer after the incident in which he confirmed that the officer did not ask about lighting conditions nor the witness’ ability to perceive cars, and that the witness cannot be certain that the person she saw in the car that day was Kelso.
DDA Richardson responded by affirming that the witness had, to the best of her recollection, seen Kelso around school and was familiar with his face.
The next witness was called who similarly was on a walk when she heard gunshots. The shots were loud enough to overhear over the music she had playing in earphones.
She detailed that as she was crossing an intersection with stop signs, she saw the red car from a distance and continued to cross, feeling that it would adhere to the stop sign and stop. As it got closer, she could tell the car was not going to stop and she hastily moved off the street where the red car made a sharp turn.
She claimed to have been able to see the car for about three to four seconds and that there were two male passengers with darker skin than her own, though she was not able to recall any other physical details.
While she was in shock on the side of the street, she then saw a silver car drive by with only one occupant and also ignore the stop sign, making a sharp turn. She recalled them both as sedans, and the passenger window of the silver car was busted open with jagged glass.
She said she did not see any guns present in either car.
Defense counselor John Brennan then took over and reiterated the same events that DDA Richardson asked, while also clarifying statements that she had made to police that day about both individuals in the red car having short hair.
The next witness was a homeowner who lived on a street that the two cars passed by. He also had a security camera that captured part of the incident.
The video footage showed the two cars, red and silver, and the witness testified to hearing gunshots when he was in his garage. He also saw a bullet shell on the street near the front of his house that the police identified and took as evidence.
He said he heard gunshots as the cars drove past his house but could not see for certain if either of the cars had guns. He did however see the passenger of the red car lean out the window to look behind him.
The final witness of the morning was loading her truck when she heard gunshots and subsequently went on a Facebook group that discusses police scanner chatter. When DDA Richardson asked what the group was talking about, the defense objected on ground of hearsay, though the judge overruled the objection.
The witness said she read about Facebook posts claiming to have also heard gunshots. After about five minutes, she remembered a red Honda driving fast down the street where she was loading her truck.
She said she knows that there were two occupants but the passenger was ducking down and was hard to see. She later saw the red car parked in the back of the apartment complex.
Later she was able to identify the person associated with the car in the courtroom, pointing out Kelso, as well as identifying him in a police lineup that the police showed her.
She believes that she had eyes on Kelso for just a split second and recalls also going to the same high school as him, though she also never interacted with him, only knew of him and saw him around school.
The witness stated that she had known Kelso’s brother from working with him at Little Caesars in 2015. So, through knowing what his brother looked like it helped in being able to identify Kelso.
Defense attorney Williams tried to poke holes in her ability to be able to identify Kelso, because she did not really know Kelso that well other than through his brother and the times she would see him at school.
The defense asked how many people attended her school and how many Black men there were at the school, attempting to see if she could have mistaken him for someone else.
The next witness on the stand was the victim himself. While on the stand he recounted the events that took place during the incident.
On Feb. 3, 2019 he was headed to meet Berkley to sell him marijuana. The witness recounted that when Berkley got into the car to do the deal that he was fidgety and appeared nervous.
Not too long after Berkley entered the car a red car appeared in front of his car blocking him from being able to drive forward. The victim said the driver, Kelso, of the red car got out wearing a mask and holding a gun.
The victim said he feared for his life so he backed up and then proceeded to drive forward to get away with Berkley still in the car. Berkley, he alleged, then pulled out a gun and held it to the head of the victim. Kelso got into his car and chased after the victim.
After being chased for what the victim recalls to be about a minute he turned around in a cul de sac and continued on trying to get away.
After turning around at the cul de sac the victim said he made Berkley get out of the car. Berkley would not get out of the car while it was moving so the victim pulled over to the side and let Berkley out.
After kicking Berkley out of the car the victim hit him with the car door while trying to close it. This caused Berkley to allegedly fire two shots at the victim, one of which hit him in the hip.
During this time the red car caught up with him and pulled in front of him again in an attempt to stop him. Berkley then got into the red car and the victim then followed them. The victim noted that at this time they were going about 60 mph through residential streets.
Berkley, from the passenger seat of the red car fired six shots at the victim’s car, said the victim, who said the shots caused two of his tires to pop and caused damage to his car.
After the tires popped, the victim pulled off onto a side road where he called a friend to come get him. A family that lived nearby and had seen the incident called the cops but the victim left so that he did not have to talk to the police.
The victim did end up telling the police about the incident the next day where he admitted he did lie to the police about the reason that he was there with Berkley and Kelso. He told the police that he was there to buy a truck from someone instead of telling them that he was there to sell marijuana.
After telling the police he was shown two photos, one of Kelso and Berkley. The victim identified them as the ones who shot at him. He was also shown pictures of his car with the bullet holes that he did identify as his.
This case will proceed throughout the week with further witnesses.