By Shady Gonzales and Leila Katibah
MODESTO, CA – During a preliminary hearing this week in Stanislaus County Superior Court, Judge Dawna Reeves concluded that, because of a dispute over facts, a jury trial should be held in a felony robbery case.
The investigating officer for the crime recalled the suspects, Alejandro Garcia and Kevin Savage, had attempted and failed to rob the victim in the middle of the night earlier this year, and that the alleged victim claimed he successfully and safely ran away from trouble.
According to the victim, the suspects approached him after parking his vehicle in a yard and demanded that he hand over money and his phone, and threatened him with a firearm and a knife. However, the victim ran away from both suspects.
While the victim was fleeing, the suspects allegedly chased after him and attempted to punch him with their fists while one waved a knife at him.
During the victim’s flight, an individual in a vehicle stopped, was told the victim was being robbed, and gave the victim a ride for safety. They reportedly drove a small distance and waited for the police to arrive.
Despite the suspects’ alleged attempts, there was no physical contact between the suspects and the victim, said police, and no money or phones were taken. Although the victim was under the impression the suspects possessed a firearm and knife, the police did not find any firearms or knives in their search.
Once the police arrived, the victim identified a nearby Garcia as a suspect. Garcia had taken off his shirt and begun playing soccer in the street.
Although it was 1 a.m., the investigating officer testified Garcia denied being involved in an attempted robbery and claimed to have just been playing soccer in the street.
While the officers were questioning the suspect and victim, the individual in the vehicle at the scene looked for the second suspect in his vehicle. Savage was found about 15 minutes away on a bicycle.
When asked why the individual, not the police, had looked for Savage, the investigating officer clarified that he had done so out of free will and with no instruction to do so.
When questioned by police, Savage admitted to being on the scene of the crime with Garcia but also declined to have attempted to rob anyone. Savage claimed that he had seen Garcia chasing after someone and agreed to help catch the man.
Savage’s attorney, Rebecka A. Monez, questioned the investigating officer about a discrepancy regarding Savage’s height. The victim and officer described his height as 5’2, but the police report and booking sheet described Savage’s height as 5’6.
Monez proceeded to ask if there were any other typos in the report and if he took photographs for evidence. The officer replied he did not take any photos and was unaware of any other typos.
The investigating officer also noted a language barrier between him and the victim, making it difficult for the officer to determine if he was frightened.
Defense attorney Reed Wagner claims, with Monez’ concurrence, that since the victim was not present in court, the officer cannot testify if there was fear in the victim since there was no physical contact, nothing was taken from the victim, no photos were taken, and no weapons were found.
DDA Palazuelos argued the victim’s flight from attempted punches and weapons coupled with his and the eyewitness’ decision to contact law enforcement is evidence of the element of fear.
Judge Reeves determined there is sufficient evidence that the victim was in fear because he was fleeing the suspects in what he perceived as a demand for his phone and money.
Judge Reeves announced that there is enough evidence to move forward with a jury trial.