OAKLAND (CBS SF) — A judge sentenced an Oakland man Thursday to 40 years to life in state prison for his role in a gun battle in West Oakland two years ago that claimed the life of a 30-year-old woman who was an innocent bystander.
Alameda County Superior Court Judge Kevin Murphy told 27-year-old Alex Davis that Chyemil Pierce, a mother of three children, was killed in the 2800 block of Chestnut Street at about 4:45 p.m. on March 9, 2015, “because of stupid decisions that you and others made that day.”
The shooting shows that “something is very wrong in our community,” Murphy said.
Prosecutor Butch Ford said that although at least eight people participated in the gun battle, in which about 100 bullets were fired, he believes that Davis “is single-handedly most responsible” for Pierce’s death.
Davis ran down the street after other gun battle participants and appears to have fired the single bullet that struck Pierce in the back of her head and killed her, Ford said.
Davis and co-defendants Anthony Sims, 22, and Michael Stills, 23, were convicted on June 1 of second-degree murder for their roles in the shooting.
Jurors were deadlocked over the fate of a fourth defendant, Jerry Harbin, 32, but four days later he pleaded no contest to the lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter and in July he was sentenced to 13 years in state prison.
Sims and Still are scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 15.
Ford told jurors in his closing argument in the trial of Davis, Sims, Stills and Harbin that they should be convicted of murder because they all acted with conscious disregard for human life, even though they had different levels of involvement.
Ford said those four men, and two others who he hopes will stand trial in November, 31-year-old Shelton McDaniels and 19-year-old Julian Ambrose, armed themselves with guns before the shootout, which occurred after a large group of women got into a fight.
The prosecutor alleged that Harbin escalated the situation by pushing one of the female combatants, 39-year-old Joneria Reed, to the ground and interjecting himself into the women’s fight.
Ford said Reed was angry that Harbin had pushed her down and called her son, 23-year-old Dijon Ward, to ask him to come and several others to the scene to back her up.
He said a shootout eventually ensued between Harbin and his associates from a West Oakland group known as “3rd World,” which included McDaniels, Davis and Stills, and Ward and his associates from another West Oakland group known as “The Bottoms,” which included Sims and Ambrose.
Davis’ attorney Darryl Billups alleged during the trial that Sims and Ambrose bear the most responsibility for Pierce’s death because they fired first and told jurors that the most Davis should be convicted of is manslaughter.
Pierce, who worked as a human resources specialist at Kaiser Permanente, wasn’t involved in the argument and fight but had come to the area to bring two of her three children back to the home in the neighborhood where her family had lived for nearly 50 years, according to Ford.
In a letter that Ford read aloud in court Thursday, one of Pierce’s sisters said Pierce “was loved by everyone who crossed her path and her kids will never be able to see her smile again.”
The sister, who asked that her name not be disclosed, said Pierce “was a wonderful mother who laid down her life for her children.”
Another sister, who also asked that her name not be used, said in her letter that Pierce’s death “has caused irreparable damage to our family” and her son still asks why she can’t pick him up from school anymore.
Pierce’s fiancé in his letter, also read aloud by Ford, said Pierce “was not in the wrong place at the wrong time because she was shot in her own neighborhood.”
“There will be no more hugs and kisses and I will never get another kiss good night,” the fiance said.
Reed and Ward had been scheduled to stand trial with Harbin, Davis, Stills and Sims, but Reed pleaded no contest in April to second-degree murder for her role in the case and testified against them as well as against McDaniels and Ambrose.
Reed’s plea agreement calls for her second-degree murder conviction to be reduced to voluntary manslaughter and for her to be sentenced to six years in custody if a judge determines that her testimony in the case was truthful.
Ward pleaded no contest to a felony count of being an accessory after the fact for hiding a gun that one of the suspects allegedly used in the shooting and was sentenced to five years’ felony probation.
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