RIVERSIDE – A man accused of shooting into a crowd of teenagers and killing a 13-year-old boy during a gang-related attack in Corona had several distinct characteristics that made identifying him easy, a witness testified today.
Brittany Baltazar was one of the guests at a ”Sweet 16” birthday party where Daveon Lee was gunned down on the night of Oct. 12, 2002.
The now-26-year-old woman testified that she saw one of the alleged shooters, Lewis Gray, arrive at the party a short time before Daveon was killed.
”He is someone who stands out, an attractive person you can’t forget,” Baltazar said of the defendant. ”He’s light-skinned and has nice hair.”
She said she also noticed he had a mole next to his nose and was wearing a leather glove on his right hand.
According to the woman, Gray was accompanied by two taller men as the defendant entered the garage of her friend’s Kilworth Drive home that night. The threesome jumped another partygoer, 17-year-old Brian Williams, who was the disc jockey at the party, the witness said.
Baltazar recalled the men beating Williams ”really bad” until adult chaperones intervened and, moments later, directed the roughly 150 people to leave the property.
According to the witness, she left via the garage, having to drop onto all fours to get out after the overhead door jammed. As she was making her way into the driveway, Baltazar said she spotted Gray standing in the street with his two associates, facing the house.
”I see his shirt go up, and then I seen a gun,” the woman said.
Baltazar admitted to defense attorney Chris Jensen that she didn’t look directly at the defendant’s face, prompting the lawyer to repeatedly ask how she could be positive it was his client wielding the pistol.
”He was the only one at the party wearing a glove. I really didn’t have to look at his face to know where the gun came from,” the witness replied. ”I know in my heart who the person was.”
Baltazar testified she fled to a neighboring property as gunfire erupted behind her.
Gray, 31, could face life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted of killing Daveon. Along with first-degree murder, the defendant is charged with shooting at an inhabited dwelling, conspiracy and attempted murder, with multiple sentence-enhancing gun and gang allegations. There is also a special circumstance allegation that he participated in a prior murder.
He was being held without bail at the Robert Presley Detention Center in Riverside.
According to Riverside County Deputy District Attorney John Aki, Gray and five co-defendants allegedly perpetrated the attack that killed the youngster in retaliation for a humiliating episode involving the defendant and several fellow ”94 Hoover” gang members six months earlier.
According to court papers, while attending a high school graduation party, the men instigated a confrontation and were on the losing end of the ensuing scuffle. Adding insult to injury, Williams swiped Gray’s Raiders jersey and shoes as the defendant was being chased out of the residence, Aki said.
The prosecutor said Williams was later seen around Corona wearing the articles ”like a trophy.” Gray and his cohorts sought revenge, going to the birthday party to find the teen, Aki alleged.
He said Gray was joined by 10 other Hoover and ”C-9” Crips gang members, who allegedly planned a ”beat down” on Williams. After being turned away at the front door, several of them, including Gray and his brother, Mario, jumped a back fence and made their way into the garage, where they attacked Williams, the prosecutor said.
He alleged they opened fire after being kicked out.
Daveon was shot in the back of the head, hit by one of 20 rounds fired at the house.
Along with the Gray brothers, the following individuals were tracked down, arrested and charged in connection with the case within months: Benjamin Rodarial Abercrombie, Cedrick Corvel Brewer, Tavares Scott, Wesley Young and Colbe Dante Williams.
Mario Gray, Scott and Young were convicted in 2006 of murder and numerous other felonies. All received life prison sentences.
Brewer pleaded guilty in June 2006 to voluntary manslaughter and is scheduled for sentencing on Nov. 18.
Abercrombie and Williams are scheduled to be tried early next year.