OAKLAND (CBS SF) – A convicted murderer reacted in anger by punching his attorney in the face Wednesday after he was sentenced to 50 years to life in state prison for fatally shooting a Berkeley activist during a fight in West Oakland last December.
Bailiffs immediately grabbed Melvin Andrew Allen Jr., 36, after he used his left hand to hit defense attorney David Bryden on the right side of his face. The bailiffs then ushered him into a nearby security stairwell at the Rene C. Davidson Courthouse in Oakland.
Bryden, who has handled a number of high-profile murder cases, grabbed his face in pain but when a supervisor for the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office asked him a short time later if he needed medical attention Bryden said, “I don’t believe so.”
The punch happened at the end of a long hearing when Alameda County Superior Court Judge Gloria Rhynes was trying to determine if Allen understood his appellate rights and if he wanted to be present at a future hearing when the amount of his restitution will be determined.
Allen paused in answering Rhynes’ questions and didn’t give yes-or-no answers and then stunned the courtroom by suddenly punching Bryden.
Describing the incident for the record, Rhynes said, “He (Allen) just struck his lawyer in the face” and she heard “a very loud whack” when Bryden was hit.
Rhynes also said battery charges could be filed against Allen. A deputy took a statement from a reporter who witnessed the incident.
Allen was convicted of first-degree murder for shooting 30-year-old Dominique Johnson in the vicinity of West Grand Avenue and Brush Street at about 10:30 p.m. on Dec. 23.
Allen and Johnson got into a fight at 23rd and Brush streets at about 10:25 p.m. on Dec. 23, according to Oakland police.
The two men then got into a second confrontation about a block away at West Grand Avenue and Brush Street a short time later and Allen pulled out a handgun and shot Johnson in the chest, police said.
Allen fled the scene and Johnson died at a local hospital a short time later, according to police.
Allen was arrested by patrol officers in the 600 block of 23rd Street at about 1 p.m. on March 5, more than two months after the shooting, following a short foot pursuit, police said.
Alameda County prosecutor Mark Bennett told jurors in his closing argument in the trial that there was enough evidence to convict Allen of murder for Johnson’s death.
But Bryden said there wasn’t enough evidence to prove that Allen was the person who shot Johnson and suggested that Johnson might have been shot by someone else.
However, Bennett said, “There’s not a shred of evidence that anyone other than Mr. Allen did this killing.”
Allen is an ex-felon who was prohibited from possessing a firearm because he was convicted of possession for sale of cocaine and cocaine base in Alameda County in September 2015, according to police.
Johnson’s family set up a GoFundMe website to raise money to support his 7-year-old daughter and his two brothers but so far it has only raised $3,727 of its $8,500 goal.
The website at https://www.gofundme.com/rest-in-power-dom-comrade-father describes Johnson as “a loved one, an amazing father and revolutionary comrade.”
The site says, “His daughter and family will remember him as a deeply loving, playful father. His comrades will remember how hard he threw down in the name of black liberation.”
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