LOS ANGELES (CBS) — A reputed gang member was ordered Monday to stand trial on two counts of murder for allegedly shooting a 22-month-old boy and the toddler's uncle, a crime that a prosecutor said was committed while the defendant rode a distinctive beach-cruiser bicycle.
Davion McClelland, 19, is charged with two counts of capital murder for allegedly opening fire on two men, one of whom is a documented member of a rival gang, in South Los Angeles on May 23, 2011. The shots missed the intended targets but struck Joshua Montes and his uncle, Josefat Canchola, outside their home.
Testifying during a preliminary hearing for McClelland in Los Angeles Superior Court, one of the alleged original targets testified that he and a friend were walking on Hooper Avenue near 55th Street when two young black men riding bikes and wearing hooded sweatshirts passed them, going the other direction.
"One of (the bikes) was like a beach cruiser," Michael Smith said.
Smith said one of the bicyclists made a gang "call," and as he and his friend continued walking, "I turned around. The next thing I know, I'm being shot at."
Two other witnesses testified that they saw two suspects riding away from the scene of shootings, one of them on a pink beach cruiser. Both of them previously identified McClelland from a photo lineup as one of the suspects.
Video surveillance footage recovered from a nearby business also showed the beach cruiser. After viewing the footage, police traced the bicycle to the nearby Pueblo del Rio housing project in the territory of the gang to which McClelland allegedly belongs.
According to testimony, McClelland's aunt, Rene Lewis, told police she had seen him riding the beach cruiser, while a resident of the project, Susan Harris, told police he had returned it to her shortly after the shootings.
In court Monday, Lewis instead testified that another nephew was riding the bike, while Harris said it was a cousin or friend of McClelland's who returned it.
"It wasn't Davion, I know that," Harris insisted.
Smith previously identified McClelland as the likely gunman from a photo lineup. In court, he said he had "no idea" if McClelland was the bicyclist with the gun.
"He was probably the one behind the shooter," Smith said.
But he admitted under questioning from Deputy District Attorney Charles Fredgren that it would be a bad thing in his neighborhood to be a "snitch" and he was afraid for his family's safety.
Joshua Montes was being carried by his uncle when the two were struck by gunfire.
LAPD Officer Brandon Barron, a gang expert, testified that the two gangs involved in the shooting have been feuding since the 1980s. He said McClelland has three tattoos identifying him as a gang member.
Fredgren told City News Service that police have interviewed an individual suspected of being the bicyclist riding with McClelland, but no arrest has been made.
Judge Mary Lou Villar found sufficient evidence at the preliminary hearing to bind McClelland over for trial. The charges against him include a special circumstance allegation of multiple murders, but prosecutors have yet to decide whether to seek the death penalty.
for more features.