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Two Men Plead No Contest In Oakland Beating Death

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Lavonte Drummer and Dominic Davis. (Alameda County Sheriff's Office)

Lavonte Drummer and Dominic Davis. (Alameda County Sheriff’s Office)

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OAKLAND (CBS SF) — Two men who were charged with murder for the beating death of a 59-year-old San Francisco man in downtown Oakland two years ago have pleaded no contest to the lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter.

The plea agreement on Feb. 8 by 20-year-old Lavonte Drummer and 19-year-old Dominic Davis for the death of Tian Sheng Yu calls for them to receive an 11-year state prison term when they’re sentenced by Alameda County Superior Court Judge Carrie Panetta on April 13, according to District Attorney spokeswoman Teresa Drenick.

Yu, a home health care worker, died five days after he was punched and knocked to the ground in the 1800 block of Telegraph Avenue, near the Fox Theater, around 3 p.m. on April 16, 2010.

Yu and his son, then 27-year-old Jin Cheng Yu, had driven to Oakland to go to a pawn shop, according to Oakland police.

Drenick said prosecutors won’t disclose their reasons for entering into the plea agreement until the day of the sentencing.

Adante Pointer, who represents Drummer, said, “It’s a reasonable resolution of the case given all the factors that were present.”

He said, “Neither young man intended to kill anyone and both of them have expressed remorse for their involvement in the matter and for Mr. Yu’s death.”

Davis’ attorney, John McDougall, did not return phone calls seeking comment on the plea agreement.

At the end of a preliminary hearing for Drummer and Davis last year, Judge Joan Cartwright said the evidence, including testimony by the son, indicated that Drummer punched the younger Yu with a closed fist after he had taken less than 10 steps after getting out of Yu’s car.

She said Drummer “set this whole tragedy into motion” because he “felt like hitting someone.”

Prosecutors who filed the charges against Drummer and Davis said the two young men had been drinking Bacardi rum and agreed they would attack someone because they were frustrated and their lives weren’t going well.

The two men weren’t planning to rob anyone, prosecutors said.

Cartwright said Tian Sheng Yu had been parking his car when his son was attacked, and when his son told him what had happened, he chased after Drummer and Davis to ask them why they had done so.

Cartwright said Davis punched Yu first, and Drummer hit him seconds later, “like a one- two hit.”

Yu was knocked down to the ground, hit his head and fractured his skull, Cartwright said.

Cartwright said Yu’s death was “a natural consequence” of being punched by Drummer and Davis, and that they must have known that their actions were dangerous.

But Pointer said Wednesday that the two men didn’t think they would cause Yu’s death by punching him and he said he thinks the death was caused by “a freak series of events.”

He said, “This was not a cold-blooded murder and there were not repeated blows to the head or kicks to the body.”

Carl Chan, the chair of the Oakland Chinatown Crime Prevention Council and a spokesman for the Yu family, said family members and community members in general have told him that they are upset at Pointer’s statement that Drummer and Davis never intended to kill anyone.

Chan said it appears that Pointer “is trying to legitimize reckless behavior and is sending the wrong message that it’s OK to punch or hurt people.”

Chan said Yu’s death was “the killing of an innocent person and it could have been you or me or anyone who was walking on the street.”

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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