A Berkeley man who was shot to death after a dice game in West Berkeley last fall was targeted because he was rumored to have been cooperating with police, according to testimony Wednesday in a hearing related to his murder.
Laquana Nuño took the stand in the preliminary hearing against Darnell Williams Jr., after which an Alameda County superior court judge will decide whether there’s enough evidence for Williams to face a trial.
Nuño was also charged with the killing of Anthony “Tone” Medearis III on Sept. 8, 2013. Authorities said she provided a ride to Williams after the Medearis shooting, and tried to help him escape police. She said Wednesday she’d picked him up, but had thought Williams had only robbed Medearis, which she’d try to discourage him from doing in the first place.
In the days before the killing, she testified that Williams told her he wanted to kill Medearis because Williams believed Medearis was “a snitch.” Nuño and Williams had become friends after the killing of her longtime boyfriend Jermaine “Third” Davis last July.
She said she agreed to cooperate with the prosecution in exchange for a deal — pleading guilty to being an accessory after the fact — to get out of jail.
In addition to the charges against Williams in the Medearis killing, he and another man — Joseph Carroll Jr. — are also facing charges that they plotted to take revenge for Davis’ murder. This ultimately led to the killing of 8-year-old Alaysha Carradine in Oakland in the hours following Davis’ death.
Authorities said Williams was the triggerman in that case, and that Carroll went on a separate mission to find the man said to have killed Davis — identified by authorities this week as Antiown “Twanny” York, 25, of Pittsburg.
Little has been said so far in court this week about Carroll’s alleged actions, but authorities previously said he went to find York in Antioch to confront him about whether he killed Davis. Nuño testified Wednesday that Carroll caught up with York at a gas station there, but decided not to kill him after York insisted he hadn’t shot Davis.
Nuño said she met and became close to Williams about six weeks after the Davis murder July 17, 2013. The two would hang out, get high with other people, and talk about how they wanted to kill York. They would also drive around looking for him in places they thought he might be hanging out.
A few days before Medearis’ murder on Sept. 8, Williams confided to Nuño that he wanted to kill Medearis because he was said to have been talking to police, she said.
“Everybody believed he was a snitch,” she testified Wednesday. There was no indication in court whether that rumor was true, though Nuño said she had previously been shown “paperwork” — by Davis — of a recorded conversation that seemed to lend credence to the rumor.
Williams told her he wanted to “kill Tone and leave him stinking somewhere” and that “Third [Davis] would want Tone knocked down.”
Nuño told Williams that Davis would not have wanted that. (Davis and Medearis lived in the same Waterfront neighborhood and were part of the same group of friends.) At a party where she said she heard Williams telling other men he wanted to kill Medearis, she said she offered Medearis a ride.
“I told him to get in my car,” she testified. “I didn’t want nothing bad to happen. Because I didn’t think it was necessary.”
She added later: “I didn’t want him [Williams] to kill him.”
The day of Medearis’ murder, Williams texted Nuño that he was planning to rob Medearis, and asked if she could come pick him up. She said she agreed to give him a ride because she wanted “bo” — a mixture of codeine and cough syrup — and “because I was stupid.”
She said she tried to discourage him from committing the robbery. Texts read into the record Wednesday bolstered her claims. Prosecutor John J. Brouhard also played wiretap recordings of phone calls between Nuño and Williams as they tried to arrange the pick-up. (There was no indication in court how law enforcement had come into possession of those recordings.)
After some confusion, and difficulty navigating the area near San Pablo and Gilman in Berkeley due to a police perimeter that already had been set up following Medearis’ shooting, Nuño picked Williams up. Police followed closely behind, however, and both Williams and Nuño quickly got out of the car and ran. Police arrested Williams that day, and Nuño on Sept. 28. Both have remained in custody since then.
Witnesses say Williams confessed to 8-year-old’s shooting
Nuño and another woman testified in court Wednesday that Williams told them about the shooting that led to the death of 8-year-old Alaysha Carradine, and the injury of two young children and their grandmother, just hours after Davis’ death.
Both said they feared for their safety afterward, and worried what Williams might do after they knew his secret.
Nuño said Williams told her about the Oakland shooting less than a week before he allegedly killed Medearis. According to her testimony, he said that, after identifying York as Davis’ killer, Williams went to the Dimond District home where York’s children and their mother lived, rang the doorbell, and started shooting as soon as the handle began to turn.
Nuño said the confession “shocked” her: “I didn’t think he was capable of doing something like that.”
Williams’ former girlfriend, Britney Rogers, testified she was with him the night of that shooting. They’d been having a family gathering at her home when Williams got the call that Davis had been shot. After a second call, in which Williams learned Davis had died, Rogers said he ultimately left for a “meeting” at the home of another man.
Williams got home around 12:30 or 1 a.m., she said, and was acting nervous. He was pacing around the small bedroom they shared, and kept looking out the window. They had been dating for two or three months at that point, she said, though Rogers explained she’d known Williams for years because his sister had been Rogers’ best friend since age 13.
As he got undressed, Rogers said Williams placed two guns on the bed. That in itself wasn’t unusual, though, as he carried a gun every day, she testified. The night of the Carradine shooting, Williams also been wearing a bulletproof vest, which Rogers said she hadn’t seen before.
She asked him what was wrong. Initially the details were vague. He said he’d gone to the meeting, figured out where someone connected to Davis’ murder lived, gotten a ride there, knocked on the door, and opened fire.
In response to questions from prosecutor Brouhard, she described — as she understood it to have happened — the shooting in the 3400 block of Wilson Avenue in more detail.
According to her testimony, Williams knocked on the door, then stood back and aimed his weapon. When the doorknob began to turn, he started to shoot. He heard screaming and he kept shooting: “The more he shot, the door came open. He saw somebody on the couch, thought it was the baby mama, and he kept shooting.”
Afterward, he walked back to a vehicle where a friend — Rogers said she didn’t know who it was — was waiting to drive them away.
It all happened quickly, she said. As Williams got back into the car, he and his friend resumed smoking the “same blunt” they’d been smoking before the killing.
Rogers and Williams stayed up all night. At 5:30 a.m., Rogers said Williams wanted to watch the news to learn exactly what had happened. The report described the death of 8-year-old Alaysha Carradine. Rogers said she started to cry.
“Bitch, what you crying for?” she said he asked her. He added: “I don’t give a fuck.”
Rogers said Williams had initially wanted to go to York’s house the night of the shooting, and that someone had told him the Dimond District home was not the right place.
“Somebody told him, ‘That’s not his house, that’s his baby mama’s house,'” testified Rogers. “But he still went.”
Afterward, Rogers said Williams became increasingly paranoid that she would turn him in for reward money from the police. He began threatening to harm her family, keeping track of her phone and her whereabouts, and asking her regularly if she was trying to set him up.
Rogers said she was particularly afraid because Williams had made statements to her that he’d “sold his soul to the devil,” and that he worshipped the devil. (Another witness previously told police that he recognized Williams due to “devil horn” tattoos on his face.)
Rogers looked into reporting what she knew anonymously, but ultimately said she didn’t take action. She also said, as time passed, she was afraid of getting in trouble for knowing what had happened and failing to report it. On Sept. 10, after she’d taken her two children, ages 1 and 5, to a safe location — where she said she was planning to join them — police picked her up to question her about Williams. She eventually decided to tell them what she knew. In exchange for her cooperation, authorities have been paying some of her bills and helping her get settled in a new home at an undisclosed location.
Testimony resumes Thursday afternoon and is expected to conclude Monday.
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Breaking: Police announce arrest in Berkeley homicide (01.07.14)
Robbery attempt led to Medearis killing; 2 charged (10.01.13)
‘Ceasefire Walk Against Violence’ comes to West Berkeley (10.01.13)
Relatives remember Berkeley shooting victim ‘Lil Tone’ (09.10.13)
Man dies after shooting in West Berkeley (09.08.13)
Murdered man was brother of man killed by gangs in 2009 (07.18.13)
Breaking: Man shot and killed on Derby Street in Berkeley (07.17.13)
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Berkeley police arrest man suspected of murder (10.28.10)
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