OAKLAND -- It only took seconds but for Erica Brown it felt like at least a half-hour as bullets flew into a Ford Explorer she and six others were sitting in as they tried to leave a San Leandro warehouse party two years ago.
"I seen a big flash, and I heard a big boom and then I just heard the bullets hitting the car," Brown said from the witness stand. "A bunch of hard metal hitting the car, just different sounds, big booms."
When the shooting stopped, Brown said, she looked around the car and saw no one else moving.
The driver and Brown's friend Shanice Kiel, 19, was shot dead. Another friend, Leneasha Northington, 16, was also dead, lying in the back seat. And next to her, 23-year-old Joshua Alford, was dead, riddled with bullets.
"After all the shots were fired, I didn't hear any noises, I didn't hear any voices," Brown said. "I checked on Shanice, I looked in the back and no one was responding."
Alameda County prosecutors have accused three Oakland men and one Fairfield man of killing the three people. The men are also charged with attempted murder for trying to kill Brown and four others who were also sitting in the SUV after an Oct. 2, 2011, "tattoo party" in a San Leandro warehouse ended.
Brown described what she saw and identified one of the accused shooters Wednesday during a preliminary hearing in which a prosecutor must convince a judge that there is enough evidence to send the four defendants before a jury on special circumstances murder charges.
"I saw a man standing there, a dark hoodie pulled over his head with dreads hanging," Brown said as she described a shooter who prosecutors have said is 22-year-old Paul Arthur Stevenson, of Oakland. "You could see his eyes and his nose. There was a look in his eyes, it was eerie."
Brown, who was sitting in the front passenger seat, said she had no time to react after seeing the man because he began to fire his gun immediately. While he was firing, Brown said, she heard another gun firing into the back right passenger area of the car.
In addition to Stevenson, the Alameda County District Attorney's Office has charged Anthony Alvin Perry II, 22, and Stanley Leon Turner, 20, both of Oakland, and Aaron Isaiah Stewart, 20, of Fairfield, with three counts of murder and four counts of premeditated attempted murder. Each charge includes a special circumstance which makes each defendant eligible for the death penalty.
Prosecutors allege that Perry, Stewart and Stevenson fired guns at the Ford Explorer and that Turner provided at least one weapon and helped the four flee the crime scene after the shootings.
Brown said she had no idea why she and her friends were targeted, but said she knew something was going wrong when they tried to leave the party and a white car drove up behind the Ford Explorer and blocked it from leaving its parking space.
Within seconds, Brown said, she heard people screaming and saw them running and then she saw the man with the eerie look in his eyes standing in front of the driver's side window.
Then the gunfire began.
"It felt like 35 minutes," said Brown, who suffered bullet wounds to the chest and colon.
The preliminary hearing is scheduled to resume Aug. 16 at René C. Davidson Courthouse.