Berkeley man sent to prison after 2014 shooting

A Berkeley man is going to prison after a shooting outside this liquor store in 2014. Image: Google Maps
A Berkeley man is going to prison after a shooting outside this liquor store in 2014. Image: Google Maps

A Berkeley man was sentenced to prison last week after shooting another man twice outside a San Pablo Avenue liquor store last year.

Arthur Palmer, 51, was sentenced Wednesday to seven years in prison, and ordered to pay $20,000 in restitution in connection with the shooting.

Authorities initially charged Palmer with attempted murder and assault with a firearm causing great bodily injury.

An Alameda County Superior Court judge held Palmer to answer on those charges in August 2014 and ordered him to face trial.

According to court transcripts from the hearing that led to that decision, Palmer’s victim Gregory Bolds described the two men as friends who rode bicycles and played chess together after meeting at a detox center. They had known each other for less than a year when the shooting took place.

Bolds said he and Palmer had an uncomfortable exchange about a week before the shooting, when Palmer began sharing some thoughts about “some little girls at the park.” Bolds told Palmer to drop the subject because he didn’t “want to talk about children like that.”

Later in the week, Bolds said he received a threatening text from Palmer, but testified that he thought his friend might have meant to send it to someone else because he believed the two were on good terms.

On June 26, 2014, the men ran into each other at a liquor store in Berkeley in the 3000 block of San Pablo Avenue, at Haskell Street, at about 9:45 p.m. According to court testimony, Bolds asked Palmer about the text, which escalated into a verbal confrontation that lasted 15-20 seconds.

Bolds, who was 38 at the time, told Palmer, “I’m going to swing your little ass around,” according to court testimony. There was cursing and raised voices. And Palmer said the men should take the argument outside.

Palmer reached for his waistband and backed out of the store, and Bolds grabbed a glass bottle, which he said he planned to use to defend himself because he had known Palmer to carry an icepick.

Bolds told prosecutor Kelly Kramer he was outside for perhaps three seconds when Palmer began shooting without warning.

“He lifted his arm up and pointed at me from his waistband,” recalled Bolds. “I started seeing flashes and heard gunshots.”

Two of those gunshots struck Bolds from about 8-10 feet away. One shattered his ankle and another hit his arm. He testified in court from a wheelchair, with pins and metal rods on his right leg, according to the transcript. He told the court he could not put any weight on his ankle, and had had two surgeries after the shooting to repair the damage. He also described nerve damage to his arm, and said he wasn’t sure when he might walk again.

Bolds said Palmer threatened him as he lay on the ground, taking cover behind a parked truck: “He told me that he was going to come over there and finish me.”

Bolds managed to get up and hop inside the liquor store, where he locked himself into a backroom. He said he couldn’t say for certain whether Palmer followed him inside, but that he heard somebody pounding on the door, demanding for him to open it.

Palmer left the area and paramedics took Bolds to the hospital, where he stayed until July 1.

During the hearing, Palmer’s defense attorney Cliff Blakely argued that Bolds had confronted Palmer in the store because he was angry about the disrespectful text. Blakely said the shooting had been done in self defense after Bolds — who was taller and stronger than Palmer — had walked in his client’s direction with a bottle. (According to his testimony, Bolds never raised the bottle, but held it by the neck at his side.)

Blakely asked Bolds if he might have made a different choice that night.

“Absolutely,” he replied. ““The choice I made was to take his invitation outside the store. That was one of the bad choices that I made.”

Judge Patrick Zika said he was not convinced by the self defense argument, noting that Palmer shot Bolds rather quickly after he walked outside, adding: “I think there is a real problem here about imminent and reasonable force.”

Palmer has been held without bail since his arrest in July 2014. This year in September, he was found guilty of assault with a firearm causing great bodily injury after entering a no contest plea.

According to court documents, Palmer has been sent to prison seven times since 1989 after numerous convictions, most of which were for drug violations. His last stint in prison was in 2005 after being found guilty of vehicle burglary. His most recent conviction prior to the shooting was for grand theft in 2011, after which he received a sentence of probation.

Breaking: Arrest made in recent Berkeley shooting (07.16.14)
Shooting in Berkeley sends 38-year-old man to hospital (06.26.14)

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