OAKLAND -- A horrific confluence of events sparked by an alleged gang feud was on display in a courtroom Monday during opening statements of a triple-murder case against four alleged North Oakland gangsters.
Killed as part of the feud that was sparked more than a decade ago by a stolen car tire rim was a 27-year-old Brentwood man driving home from a volunteer job, a 42-year-old Berkeley man taking his daily walk, and the brother of an alleged gang rival who was hit with at least 17 bullets on a residential street in West Berkeley.
"Their fate would be linked together for ever," said deputy district attorney Steve Dal Porto said of the victims. "They had no idea that these evil, despicable, cowardly men were coming to snuff out their lives in horrific ways."
The killings began, Dal Porto said, in the late afternoon of May 16, 2009, when Samuel Flowers, 25; Rafael Campbell, 28; Anthony Price, 30; and Stephon Anthony, 23, drove Anthony's two-door Cadillac into rival gang territory in West Berkeley "hunting" for rivals to kill.
Dal Porto said he would prove the four men were part of a North Oakland gang that was seeking retribution against a West Berkeley gang for the killing one of their members months earlier.
Although the four did not find a rival gang member, they did come across Charles Davis, the 23-year-old brother of an alleged rival gang member, who was walking along Allston Way to a liquor store.
Without hesitation, Dal Porto said, Flowers jumped from the car and began firing an SKS semi-automatic assault rife at Davis. Meanwhile, Dal Porto said, the other three men drove donuts in the Cadillac in the middle of Allston and 10th Street.
A resident of Allston witnessed the shooting, and a nearby Berkeley police officer heard the shots and sped to the scene, Dal Porto said. Upon arriving, the officer smelled the gunfire and eventually saw Davis, his head partially blown off, lying in the middle of the street, Dal Porto said as he flashed a picture of the crime scene, producing loud gasps in the crowded courtroom.
After shooting Davis, Dal Porto said, Flowers returned to the car, and the four men sped from the scene and past another Berkeley officer who was responding to the emergency call.
That officer decided to pursue the four men, beginning a six-minute, high-speed chase that ended when the Cadillac sped through a stop sign and smashed into a 2005 Mazda at the corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Way and Aileen Street in North Oakland.
Driving the Mazda was Todd Perea, 27, a filmmaker who had just left the Oakland Senior Community Center, where he was volunteering. The impact of the crash instantly killed Perea, Dal Porto said, and it also killed Floyd Ross Jr., 42, who was out for a walk when the two crashed cars spun out of control and into him.
While Flowers is alleged to be the only person who shot Davis, all four men are charged with three murders because, Dal Porto said, they all knew when they entered the Cadillac that they were on a mission to kill. In addition, Dal Porto said, they all knew that leading police on a high-speed chase after the Davis shooting could result in the death of others.
Each defendant faces life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Anthony and Price were arrested at the scene of the crash, but Flowers and Campbell escaped. Flowers was arrested in Florida about two weeks after the shooting, and Campbell was arrested in Sacramento six months later after being profiled on "America's Most Wanted."
Defense attorneys representing the four defendants said that the case against their clients is weak, and all denied that the four are members of a gang.
Attorneys representing Campbell and Flowers questioned whether their clients were even at the scene of the crimes. Price's attorney said that evidence will only prove that his client was there but not that he knew what was going to happen.
Anthony's attorney said that while evidence might show that Anthony was driving the Cadillac, it will not prove that he intended to kill anyone.