“I didn’t think I was going to get shot, but that’s what happened,” testified Janelle Davis on Wednesday in Alameda County Superior Court.
Davis and a friend, Angelo Fields, were each shot in the head in Berkeley last year but managed to survive. Thursday morning, Judge Trina Thompson said the man charged with shooting the pair in a fit of jealousy — Davis’ former boyfriend — must stand trial.
Davis said she died after the shooting, but was revived at the hospital. She is now blind in one eye and has extensive numbness and limited mobility on her left side. She is on disability and does not work, she said. Fields was shot numerous times, including in the face and spine, but he testified Wednesday that he has no lasting injuries.
Anthony Burton, 45, was held to answer on two counts of attempted murder, felony domestic violence, assault with a semiautomatic firearm, shooting at an occupied vehicle, being a felon in possession of a firearm and a number of other clauses and enhancements. Burton is scheduled to return to court for arraignment Aug. 3.
The preliminary hearing — where a judge determines whether there is enough evidence against a defendant to order him to stand trial — began Wednesday morning and wrapped up Thursday at about 10 a.m.
Witnesses included victims Davis and Fields, Berkeley Police homicide Sgt. Peter Hong, an Alta Bates security guard who said she saw Burton pull up in his Mazda and drop Davis’ body in the ambulance bay, and a Berkeley firefighter-paramedic who was parked at Alta Bates at the same time.
The firefighter-paramedic, Kyle Tong, said the Mazda caught his attention when it pulled up shortly after 1 a.m. March 16, 2016, because nonemergency vehicles are not allowed to use the ambulance bay. Tong said the driver said, “help me, help me,” as he pulled Davis’ body from the back seat. As Tong and his partner began their medical assessment, Burton sped off.
Tong made a mental note of part of the license plate number on the Mazda, which helped police identify Burton as their suspect. The vehicle was registered to Burton, and he was in the car when he was arrested by authorities about a month later.
Former Alta Bates security guard Felisa Morgan-Pratt said she got several looks at Burton when he drove past her to drop off Davis. She was outside on a break when he pulled up, and then sped away. Morgan-Pratt picked Burton out of a photo line-up and identified him to police.
Fields testified that he didn’t realize he had been shot, and didn’t recall many details from that night. He and Davis had been parked in her car on a quiet residential street — Tremont Street near Prince Street in South Berkeley — listening to music, he said. He remembers seeing Davis’ head hit the steering wheel, then he “just started running.”
“I ran and got my own help,” he said, as adrenaline coursed through his body. Fields ran to a nearby house where he collapsed on the porch. It turned out he had been shot in the face, hand, arm and back.
Davis herself gave the most extensive description of what happened around the time of the shooting. She said she had been in a relationship with Burton for less than three months, and had already run into problems with him related to jealousy, anger and possessiveness. She said he had punched one of her sons in the face the prior month after a heated argument between herself and Burton.
“He was just always yelling and out of control,” she said. They had a tumultuous relationship: They would fight, and she would put his stuff outside. Or he would just pack up his belongings and leave. Ultimately, she later testified, “I knew I didn’t want to be with him anymore.”
Davis said she was planning to break up with Burton and, on March 15, reached out to several friends for support and advice. She met up with a schoolmate at Buffalo Wild Wings in San Jose, and was talking with him in her car when she was surprised by Burton — who suddenly was knocking at her window, acting angry.
Burton and Davis’ friend then got into an argument, which turned physical, and Davis drove away a short time later, she said. Burton kept calling her, and she said it was alarming and she didn’t want to go home.
“He said he was going to find me,” she said.
Davis said she began to think Burton was tracking her movements via her phone, so she parked at a nearby hospital to see if he would turn up. She made two calls and, about an hour later, Burton appeared in the area, she said. She drove to the police station to learn how to get a restraining order.
Davis said she then considered driving into San Francisco to pick up work driving Uber or Lyft, but was too upset. So she met up with Fields in Berkeley. She said Fields told her he needed to be at the airport at about 6 a.m., and she told him she could drive him there. She thought the two could just talk until he needed to be dropped off — at which point Burton would have gone to work, and she could return home.
“We were hanging out,” she recalled. “I didn’t want to be around drama.”
The two were in the car for an hour or so, she estimated, laughing and talking about life and the future, “all kinds of stuff.” At some point, she saw Fields react to something outside the car. So Davis turned to look out her window and found Burton’s Mazda facing her, his driver’s side window just outside hers.
“I’m like, OMG, that’s him,” she said, and realized they might actually have to fight Burton to escape.
She quickly tried to pull forward, but Burton backed up his car to block her. So she reversed, and he pulled forward — again to block her way. Davis recalled that Burton’s window was already down. She rolled hers down slightly to speak to him.
“What? What do you want?” she asked him. “That’s all I remember.”
When she woke up several days later in the hospital, she had no idea she had been shot. She couldn’t see out of her left eye but thought he must have punched her. Davis said she found it odd, however, that she couldn’t recall the fight. Eventually a nurse told her she had been shot.
The bullet, as it turned out, traveled through her head down her throat and lodged in her intestines, where it remains, she said. She has trouble remembering the names of things now, but can usually describe what she’s trying to communicate even if she can’t remember the exact word.
At one point, recalling her time in the hospital and subsequent recovery, Davis broke down in tears. But she told the judge she didn’t need a break.
“I didn’t think I was going to go through this,” she said, sobbing. “We talked about some real stuff. That’s why I couldn’t believe he would do something like this.”
Defense attorney Carlyle G. Varlack of San Jose questioned the memories of both shooting victims, and both admitted, in response to his questions, that they did not recall seeing a person with a gun shoot them. Davis told Varlack, during cross-examination, that she had no memory of being dropped off at the hospital, either.
“I died. When I got shot, I died,” she told him.
Of the person who dropped her off, Varlack said: “He saved your life.”
Davis pushed back: “The hospital saved my life.”
She said she may have died, however, if she had not been taken to the hospital so quickly.
It took police some time to catch up with Burton. He was found sleeping in his car in Sacramento about a month after the shooting. He had Davis’ car key and cellphone with him in his vehicle police said.
Davis testified that Burton owned a gun, which he had shown her when they lived together. He told her he was “protecting you and your kids,” she said: “That’s how he always made it seem like, in the beginning.”
Berkeley Police Sgt. Hong said he had spoken with a prior girlfriend of Burton’s who recalled the same gun. Burton had shown her how to use it, Hong testified, and described it as a “40” — the same caliber weapon used in the shooting. Hong said he found the woman because she’d filed a domestic violence complaint with the Antioch police. She’d taken out a restraining order after being troubled by Burton’s behavior.
In his closing arguments, Alameda County deputy district attorney Brian D. Owens said Burton was “basically stalking” Davis all day prior to the shooting. He got angry and followed her from place to place, then boxed her car in in Berkeley when she tried to escape. Owens said Burton shot Davis and Fields, then took Davis to Alta Bates.
No information was provided about why Burton took Davis to the hospital. Varlack, a private attorney hired by Burton’s family, did not put on any witnesses, or make a closing argument. Neither is unusual during the preliminary hearing, when the prosecution tends to be the focus and the standard of proof is lower than at trial.
Casings at the scene and other evidence found in Davis’ car were consistent with a gun fired from outside the vehicle, Owens said. He urged the judge to send the case to trial, and said the evidence pointed strongly to Burton as the shooter.
“There’s just no other reasonable conclusion you can draw,” he told the judge.
Thompson agreed, noting that the testimony, timeline and exhibits presented by the prosecution all added up to a reasonable suspicion that Burton was responsible.
Burton of San Jose is being held without bail at Santa Rita Jail in Dublin.