By Oliver Camarena and Matthew Torres
WOODLAND, CA – Testimony wrapped up Tuesday in the Yolo County Superior Court trial of Solomon Yellowhorse, charged with assault likely to produce great bodily injury and exhibiting a deadly weapon other than a firearm in a 2021 Davis incident.
The jury heard closing arguments Tuesday and begins deliberation Wednesday—the jury heard conflicting stories from the victim, and many stories from police officers, although most of them had nothing to do with the charges Yellowhorse is facing in this trial.
The first witness called was the alleged victim in an altercation that took place in downtown Davis in July of 2021. The victim continued his testimony from the day prior by walking back a statement made, saying the man had “swung” the tire iron at him, during the initial 911 call to police.
The victim claimed he had felt like he’d been attacked and was “excited” and emotionally “fragile” during the incident and that’s why the word “swung” had come out during the 911 call.
The victim said the man brandishing a tire iron and walking toward him made him feel threatened and like the man was going to hit him, though the man never touched the victim nor swung the tire iron at him.
The victim recounted seeing the accused with a tire iron, but never saw it in motion, during the altercation when the victim had his back turned to the accused while fleeing.
The tire iron was allegedly being held at a 4 o’clock position at the man’s side and the man chased after the victim when he started to run away.
The victim said he recognized the man from around town but never had interacted with him prior to this.
Deputy District Attorney Michelle Serafin asked the victim if he had told officers that Yellowhorse had held the tire iron above his shoulder, to which the victim agreed he had, but said a lot of the details were fuzzy.
DDA Serafin played the bodycam footage of officers who’d arrived after the incident to interview the victim. During the footage, the victim can be heard describing what had happened and about the physical appearance of the man.
During cross-examination, Deputy Public Defender Monica Brushia argued that the victim’s testimony during his statement to police officers, preliminary hearing nearly a year ago, and less than an hour ago in court, do not match up.
PD Brushia argued that in the preliminary hearings, the victim testified that the tire iron was not raised and that it was held down, out to the side, conflicting with his current testimony and the statements he made to police that the man raised the tire iron above his arm, in a threatening motion.
The victim claimed that he was talking about when he first saw the man, not during the whole altercation, and that he was in a state of shock.
PD Brushia clarified that the question asked of him during the preliminary hearing was “at any point was the tire iron raised?” and the victim’s response was “it was not raised.” She then asked if the victim was still in a state of shock during the preliminary hearing, to which he said no, but that he was when the incident was taking place.
When asked to clarify if he misspoke during the hearing, the victim said he didn’t know.
PD Brushia then asked about the 911 call that the victim made during the incident where he described that man as “mental” and having just “swung at me,” though he could not testify just previously that the man definitely swung at him.
She pressed the victim about the call, making sure he wasn’t trying to mislead or lie to the 911 operator about what was happening and that he was frightened when he told them “he literally just swung at me,” even though he now says he never actually saw the man swing at him.
They went over the incident together, clarifying that after the victim had confronted the man, he hid the tire iron under his arm and walked away. The victim then secretly followed the man, while on the phone with 911, until he lost sight of him.
DDA Serafin asked about the victim’s height and that he had to look down to see the tire iron when he realized someone was behind him.
The victim said when he first saw the man that day, he was confident that the tire iron was held at this side at 4 o’clock position, but also that he had the impression that it was raised at some point during the altercation and that he was going to be hit.
PD Brushia then asked again about the position of the tire iron during the whole altercation and made note of the fact the victim could not definitely testify about the other positions of the tire iron during the incident beside it being at 4 o’clock when he first saw the man and it being under his arm when the man had walked away.
“I don’t want you guessing,” said PD Brushia when she further pressed the victim about his testimony of what he thought or felt had happened when his back was turned to the man who had the tire iron.
The victim concluded his testimony by saying he wasn’t trying to guess, that he saw the tire iron in two distinct positions during the altercation but can’t remember exactly where it was the second time he saw it and he never saw the motion of it being raised, despite his prior testimony.
The next witness called was an off duty police officer from another town who happened to be in downtown Davis at Temple Coffee the day of this incident.
The officer recalled being on the benches outside of Temple when he observed an agitated man with a tire iron cursing and staring at people who were also sitting on the benches.
When the man made it to the last table, he made a “beeline” to a woman there but was stopped by another man who jumped in between the two of them yelling at the man with the tire iron to get away.
The witness backed up the man who was yelling at the accused, and told him that he was an off duty police officer and that he was armed. The witness further stated that after that, the man with the tire iron slowly backed off, heading west bound away from Temple.
He recalled the man gripping the tire iron but not raising it or swinging when he was only a few feet away from the people outside of Temple coffee.
PD Brushia asked the witness about his police experience and clarified with him that he never saw the man swing or raise the tire iron, just that he was cursing at bystanders and holding the tire iron.
DDA Serafin asked him if he called 911 to which he responded that he didn’t because he could tell several other people were already on the phone with the police but he did call a local cop that he thought might be on duty that he had a personal connection with, to describe the incident.
Next, Officer (first name not provided) Adams of the Davis Police Dept. went over his history dealing with the accused back in Jan. of 2021 and the day of this incident in July of 2021.
First, DDA Serafin asked Adams to identify Yellowhorse in court, which he was able to do, and then asked about his prior experience dealing with Yellowhorse in January of 2021 when he followed up on a call from a Davis business owner.
Adams said the business owner showed him surveillance footage depicting a man with an object, thought to be a crowbar, walking around and looking into windows at 3 a.m. before walking away.
But Adams did not recognize the man in the footage, although the business owner gave him a possible name of the suspect in the video, that name being Yellowhorse.
Later in January, Adams responded to a call in Davis about Yellowhorse allegedly being on the steps of a residence. Once he arrived, Adams said he detained Yellowhorse and searched him for potential weapons.
Yellowhorse appeared to be wearing the same clothing as seen in the surveillance footage, according to Adams, and with the help of another person on scene, the officers were able to find the crowbar in a nearby bush that they believed to be Yellowhorse’s.
DDA Serafin then moved on to ask about the incident that occurred on July 11, 2021, when Adams was on patrol and received a report of a male walking around the downtown area with a tire iron.
After receiving a physical description over the phone, he did think that the description matched Yellowhorse, and went down where he made contact with the victim that testified earlier.
DDA Serafin and Adams talked about the areas in which all the events of the tracking Yellowhorse took place in downtown Davis: U.S. Bank, Peet’s Coffee, Temple Coffee, and Starbucks.
Adams described the victim’s initial demeanor as “shaken up” but he had no visible injuries. He also recalled the victim telling him that the suspect had held the tire iron above his shoulder, and demonstrated how he had held it.
It wasn’t until later that Yellowhorse was seen downtown, reported by the victim who was still in the area looking for Yellowhorse with police.
Yellowhorse was no longer wearing a shirt and did not have the tire iron in his possession when he was detained and arrested by the police, said Adams.
The tire iron that was described in all the testimonies was never found.
PD Brushia then clarified the area in which these events occurred, as well as the timeline, before confirming that the tire iron seen in this incident is not the same crowbar that the police had taken back in January when they’d last dealt with Yellowhorse.
She confirmed with Adams that the victim was “frightened” from the incident and still told him that the man had raised the tire iron above his shoulder.
During a follow up interview nearly a week later, Adams said the victim indicated that Yellowhorse was holding the tire iron at a downward position, but at the ready to strike.
She finished her examination by clarifying with Adams that during the Jan. incident, Yellowhorse never broke into or damaged any property, despite being easily able to with the crowbar that he was depicted to have had in the surveillance footage.
DDA Serafin asked Adams again about the victim’s statement that day and how he felt that Yellowhorse was going to hit him, kill him, or rob him when he was being chased with the tire iron.
Next, Officer Fiona Wais, of the Davis Police Dept., testified about her dealing with Yellowhorse from January and July of 2021.
She was the first officer on the scene the night that they found Yellowhorse in front of a Davis residence with a crowbar and noted how they went about finding the crowbar.
She said she was familiar with Yellowhorse prior to this incident and was able to identify him in court.
DDA Serafin then asked Wais about what had happened during July 11 when she received a personal phone call from an off duty police officer detailing a man walking around downtown Davis with a tire iron.
Wais, along with several other patrol officers, went downtown as 911 calls came in corroborating the same sighting of a man with a tire iron.
Once she arrived downtown, she and other officers searched for whom they suspected to be Yellowhorse.
Eventually his whereabouts were reported to the police, according to Wais, and she assisted in Yellowhorse’s detention and search.
The victim who testified earlier in the day was also still around the area and gave a brief summary of what allegedly happened to him to Wais as well, describing the man with the tire iron as raising the tire iron above his shoulder during the altercation.
Wais said that the tire iron and the black backpack that was reported on Yellowhorse had not been found.
DDA Serafin asked if Wais and other officers went back to Temple Coffee to try to speak to any witnesses, and Wais said they unfortunately did not find anyone.
PD Brushia clarified with Wais that this all happened in a one- to two-block radius and that there was no surveillance footage taken from Temple Coffee.
She also asked Wais if there were any other independent witnesses to corroborate what happened to the victim, whether in downtown or at Temple, but Wais said there were not.
The trial reconvened after the break, with DDA Serafin calling on Officer Luke Mosely to testify on an incident in 2018 regarding Yellowhorse.
The officer was dispatched to a liquor store where he spoke with a store clerk and watched surveillance footage.
The clerk told the officer Yellowhorse was outside panhandling for money before attempting to enter the store but being rejected. He begged the clerk to be allowed in to buy items, but was not allowed in.
While arguing, Yellowhorse allegedly reached into his jackets and slashed at the clerk with a knife and ran off. This was corroborated by surveillance footage the officer observed and a seven-inch slash under the arm of the clerk’s jacket.
Following the officer’s testimony, DDA Serafin began her closing argument by noting the jury must decide whether the accused is guilty of assault with a deadly weapon or simply brandishing.
She reminded the jury of the testimony they heard earlier of Yellowhorse at Temple Coffee where he approached customers in an aggressive manner and argued that he was attempting to instigate a fight through his actions of shaking the tire iron up and down and moving his head back and forth.
“That probably could have been an assault,” she stated. However, because officers could not find the specific patrons he approached, it was charged as brandishing.
DDA Serafin then compared this instance with the event they heard about this morning, where Yellowhorse allegedly chased a man around a planter with a tire iron in front of a U.S. Bank.
She stated the acts of chasing the victim and raising the tire iron above his shoulder surpasses the threshold of simply brandishing a deadly weapon but rather constitutes assault. She added, “Why does he need to stay close to the victim if he’s just exhibiting a weapon?”
To conclude, she recited the jury instructions, “Assault is defined as any act with a deadly weapon that is directly and probably going to result in the application of physical force,” emphasizing that there is no requirement the weapon be swung, but from hearing the officer’s testimony earlier they could conclude the “defendant’s” intent was to assault the victim.
PD Brushia began her closing argument by going over the brandishing charge. She noted the requirement of exhibiting the weapon in a rude, angry, or threatening manner and agrees the requirement was met at Temple Coffee.
However, she claimed that chasing someone isn’t inherently assault because by its nature it wouldn’t directly or probably result in the application of force.
Next she questioned the credibility of the victim’s testimony, noting that his claims have varied. Initially, in the 911 call, Yellowhorse allegedly swung at the victim, then when discussing with officers he claimed the accused didn’t swing but his arm was raised like he was attempting to swing—and this morning the victim when asked about the swinging said, “Well that’s not the right word to use. I felt he had attacked me. I was fragile. I didn’t see the tire iron in motion.”
“That’s not proof beyond a reasonable doubt,” the PD said. She added that although it not intentional, the victim’s feelings of what could have happened clouded what he told officers actually happened.
Regarding the officer’s testimony of Yellowhorse’s 2018 assault, the PD told the jury, “I hope you see the indignity of that,” emphasizing the accused’s panhandling and begging to be allowed into the store to buy something.