OAKLAND -- On the day before his 17th birthday, Christian Burton was ordered Tuesday to stand trial for special circumstances murder in the killing of a 34-year-old Santa Clara County paramedic.
Burton is accused of killing Quinn Boyer as the off-duty paramedic sat using his iPhone in a Honda Civic on Keller Avenue in the East Oakland hills on April 2. Boyer, a Dublin resident, had just dropped off his father at home after a doctor's appointment and pulled over to use his phone when Burton and five other teenage boys saw him.
Oakland police Sgt. Randy Brandwood testified during a preliminary hearing Tuesday that Burton admitted shooting Boyer but said it was an accident that occurred while Burton and another teen attempted to rob Boyer of his iPhone.
Brandwood said Burton described the scene and said that Boyer saw him and another teen approaching his car and tried to drive away but that Burton fired a shot into the moving vehicle. That bullet flew through the passenger window of the Honda and hit Boyer in the head.
The paramedic died two days later at Highland Hospital.
Burton and the other five teens, including a 13-year-old, were caught after a witness described seeing a golden Dodge Intrepid at the scene of the shooting and seeing a young man in a white hat fire a gun.
With that information, police began looking for the Dodge and discovered a reported carjacking from earlier in the day of a golden Dodge Intrepid from Island Market on High Street.
A review of video surveillance cameras at the market showed Burton and the five other boys hanging out in and around the store at the time of the carjacking. The other boys were arrested first and at least two identified Burton as the shooter in the killing of Boyer.
Burton was arrested two weeks after the killing while he slept at his home at about 4 a.m.
Burton's defense attorney, Ernie Castillo, questioned the credibility of Burton's admission to police about the shooting, suggesting that Burton was coerced into admitting the crime.
Castillo pointed out that police officers lied to Burton about possibly giving him a deal if he admitted to the killing and that they had an independent witness who identified Burton. But that independent witness identified the shooter as wearing a white hat, and surveillance video from earlier in the day showed another teen in the group wearing the hat, Castillo argued.
Castillo also argued that his client was a minor who was dreary and sleepy when he was questioned at 7 a.m. after being forced to sit in a windowless 96-square-foot room for almost two hours with no social contact.
Some of the admissions Burton made, Castillo said, did not correspond to the evidence collected in the case.
Nevertheless, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Paul Delucchi ruled that deputy district attorney Joe Goethals provided enough evidence to send the case before a jury.
Delucchi said any question about Burton's admission is an issue that a jury must decide.
Burton is scheduled to appear in court next month for a routine pretrial hearing. Burton faces life in prison without the possibility of parole. He was the only one of the six teens involved who was charged as an adult.