OAKLAND -- An Oakland teenager charged as an adult with murder for the killing of a toddler last year during a shooting in a West Oakland parking lot pleaded not guilty to the charges Monday.
Fredrick Charles Coleman, 17, is accused of killing 23-month-old Hiram Lawrence Jr. He and two others are accused of shooting guns into a crowd of people Coleman and his partners believed were rival gang members, law enforcement officials have said.
Coleman was charged with murder in Alameda County Superior Court, while two others accused of similar crimes, Dionte Houff, 30, and Houston Nathaniel III, 23, were charged in federal court.
On Nov. 28, 2011, Hiram Jr. was shot in the head as his father, Hiram Lawrence, held the boy near a taco truck in an attempt to shield him from the barrage of bullets that rang from guns allegedly being fired by the three defendants. Hiram Jr. died Dec. 9 from his injuries.
Houff and Nathaniel pleaded not guilty to a litany of federal criminal charges earlier this year. The pair are charged with racketeering, murder, attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon.
Nathaniel is also charged in federal court with attempted murder in connection with the shooting of two teenagers in separate incidents on Nov. 6, 2011.
Houff and Nathaniel face the federal death penalty or life in prison.
Meanwhile, Coleman, who authorities said was the person who fired the bullet that killed Hiram Jr., is charged with seven felonies, including murder and attempted murder. He too faces life in prison.
The federal cases against Houff and Nathaniel are expected to continue in January, and the case against Coleman is scheduled to resume in March with a preliminary hearing.
Oakland police struggled to solve the case, but with help from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the U.S. attorney's office, leads were strung together and charges finally filed in July against the trio of gang members who authorities described as three of Oakland's "most dangerous" individuals.
Coleman was charged in state court because it proved easier to charge a juvenile as an adult there.
Oakland police said in court filings that videotaped surveillance footage helped them identify the three defendants as the shooters.