Drive-by Bar Shooting Case Set for Trial after Suspect’s Friend Talks to Deputy

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By Amy Berberyan

MODESTO, CA – After a pre-Labor Day holiday preliminary hearing last Friday in Stanislaus County Superior Court, Judge Carrie Stephens determined enough evidence had been presented to tie James Ingram to a bar shooting.

The shooting occurred on March 13, 2021, at Nino’s Bar, when a driver opened fire; it was preceded by a physical altercation with multiple security guards, according to testimony.

Deputy Aaron Figley told the court a witness, Ingram’s friend, “did see [him] with a handgun.” This friend described it as a “black handgun that shot 9 mm ammunition,” testified Figley, adding witnesses report Ingram was seen getting into his car, doing a U-turn, and driving back toward the bar.

This friend of Ingram’s was detained when Deputy Figley arrived at the scene. The officer mentioned the witness claimed “he had to get going to another appointment” while in custody, citing work he had to do as a barber.

Ingram was described as wearing “black pants” by this friend, who also told Deputy Figley about the altercation with security. The witness noted he also became involved in the fight, attempting to “remove James (Ingram).”

Deputy Figley said this witness “walked with Ingram all the way to his car” and smashed the window of Ingram’s car; he was not asked why he did this. This event occurred before the alleged shooting.

The friend identified Ingram as the shooter, telling the deputy he heard “approximately five shots coming from [Ingram’s] car” as he was driving by.

Marissa Silva, a detective for the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s department, was the next witness called to testify before the court. Silva said she viewed surveillance video at Nino’s bar, and spoke with the manager of the establishment, who clarified that Ingram and a friend had shown up to the bar before the shooting.

Ingram ordered a couple of drinks, “drank them quickly,” then “ordered two beers and attempted to walk outside with them before being stopped by security.”

When reviewing the surveillance footage, Detective Silva noted the vehicle was the same, gray-colored SUV Ingram and his friend had arrived in at the bar. When asked what was distinct about the suspect in the footage, she noted Ingram’s “red chest-style fanny pack. Like a harness.”

The surveillance footage shows pieces of the altercation, including the initial fight when Ingram tried to walk out with the two beers and was stopped by security. Detective Silva noted “a struggle over the beers until they were thrown.”

Ingram’s friend is seen stepping into the middle of the fight and pushing Ingram away from the establishment. At this point, Ingram is still wearing his fanny pack. His friend takes him south, out of view of the camera, and is then seen coming back by himself.

When Ingram returns, he is not wearing his fanny pack. Detective Silva pointed out he “pulls his arm back like he’s going to punch someone,” leading to security coming out. Another altercation ensues. This one is brief and ends when Ingram’s friend walks him away from the bar.

Again, both men walk out of view and the friend is seen walking back alone.

The gray SUV leaves the parking lot and, a short time later, drives back. Detective Silva, addressing the footage, said, “I believe two flashes [came] from inside the car” and mentioned “people ducking and running.”

Regarding the background work she did, Detective Silva stated Ingram was employed at a barber college. A woman there was able to identify a photo still shown to her as James Ingram; she gave Detective Silva Ingram’s address and phone number, and stated he drove a “gray-colored SUV similar to a jeep but not a jeep.”

Detective Silva found that the gray SUV was not only registered to Ingram, but matched the vehicle seen at the shooting. A white decal on the rear window was an identifying trait and looked similar in video, though Detective Silva said it was “hard to tell.”

After receiving a search warrant, Detective Silva searched Ingram’s home; she found and seized a firearm in the tank of his toilet. It was a “Glock-style handgun” and couldn’t recall if this was registered to him.

When she spoke to Ingram, he admitted to being at Nino’s Bar and the fight. Detective Silva did not recall seeing photos regarding the shots, but mentioned “bullet holes in the wall in front of establishment” and “possibly one in a window.”

Defense Attorney Joseph McPeak argued that it was “difficult to distinguish” the footage in the parking lot and Detective Silva admitted that, if someone else had managed to enter the parking lot, she might have missed them.

Defense Counsel McPeak pointed out they lacked a license plate number for the car in shooting. The only thing unique about the car was the white decal, which Detective Silva said mentioned a “mobile barber service with his number on it.”

He also argued that the only witness was a man “anxious to get away, was not cooperative with police when being interviewed, [and] was for some reason more concerned about cutting hair.”

“No one actually sees him do the shooting,” said McPeak, and “since [his] friend identified Ingram, the defense asked for a dismissal.

Judge Stephens denied this, noting the friend said Ingram shot at him. Furthermore, she added that “plenty of circumstantial evidence [is available] to hold this defendant to answer.”

She found sufficient cause for Count 1, a felony caused by willfully and maliciously discharging a firearm from a vehicle. She also found sufficient cause for assault and battery following the altercation with the security guards.

Judge Stephens set Ingram’s arraignment prior to trial for Sept. 15.

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About The Author

Amy is a UCLA student majoring in English and Philosophy. She is interested in law and is from Burbank, California.

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