Attorneys clash in closing arguments for barbershop murder trial

POMONA — A prosecutor and defense attorney gave closing arguments today in the murder trial for two men accused of robbing and killing an Ontario man at a Holt Avenue barbershop.

The attorneys clashed over whether barber Larry Hammett, 46, was shot because he resisted a robbery attempt at Groom Time, or because he threatened to kill one of the men accused in his killing.

Omari Ali, 21, and Keyon Rasheed Hill, 20, could face life without the possibility of parole if convicted of murder for Hammett’s killing.

Deputy District Attorney Ian Phan told jurors in Pomona Superior Court that Ali was lying when he testified that he shot Hammett because the barber pointed a gun in his face after Ali declined to purchase marijuana from him.

“Mr. Ali is not to be trusted, not to be believed, and he did not have the right to use self-defense that day,” Phan told the jury of eight women and four men.

Phan told jurors that Hill and Ali robbed Hammett of marijuana and money, and shot and killed him because he resisted.

“That was their purpose in showing up to the barbershop,” Phan said.

Hill’s attorney, Ronald Whitenhill, told jurors that Hill “was in the wrong place at the wrong time” the day of Hammett’s killing.

Hill and Ali went to the barbershop to purchase marijuana from Hammett, and did not rob him or set out to kill him, Whitenhill said.

The attorney said that testimony this week from people who witnessed the barbershop killing supports defense claims.

Phan emphasized in his closing argument that marijuana and other items were missing from the barbershop after the killing — because Ali and Hill took them, he said.

But Whitenhill told jurors that the marijuana and other items were missing because one of Hammett’s friends removed them before police arrived to try to keep it secret that Hammett was selling marijuana.

Attorneys are scheduled to finish closing arguments Monday, and once arguments are finished the jury will begin deliberating.

Ismail Ali, Omari Ali’s father, said in an interview this morning that he feels his son and Hill should be found not guilty, and he believed his son was telling the truth on the witness stand this week.

“It held up good,” the Los Angeles man said of his son’s story. “I wasn’t there, he was, so he knows.”

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Ontario man pleads not guilty in drunken driving death

RANCHO CUCAMONGA — An Ontario man has pleaded not guilty to charges that he killed a San Dimas woman in a drunken driving crash last year and fled the scene.

Jeffrey Gilbert Gonzales, 24, came to West Valley Superior Court out of custody Thursday for an arraignment, but was taken into custody at the end of the hearing after a judge set his bail at $450,000.

Prosecutors have charged Gonzales with four felonies for the Aug. 16, 2009 crash that killed Alyssa Nicole Randles, 22.

Gonzales allegedly made a left turn in his pickup truck into the path of Randles’ Volkswagen at Euclid and Schaefer avenues in Ontario.

Gonzales pleaded not guilty Thursday to gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, hit and run resulting in death, and two drunken driving charges.

He remains jailed at Adelanto Detention Center, according to booking records, and he is next due in court March 10, court records show.

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Trial under way for Phillips Ranch woman who killed husband

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POMONA — A Phillips Ranch woman was driven by jealousy to shoot and kill her husband last year, after she learned he was cheating on her with a college student half his age, jurors heard today in the wife’s trial.

Prosecutors accuse Adrienne Davidson, 47, of planning for several weeks, then shooting Ezra Davidson in the head as he slept on Jan. 1, 2009.

The wife had recently learned that her husband was seeing a USC student. He was paying her tuition and providing her other financial support, according to testimony from the couple’s 22-year-old daughter.

Today was the first day of testimony in Davidson’s murder trial in Pomona Superior Court.

Adrienne Davidson’s attorney, Winston McKesson, said the woman should be convicted of manslaughter, not murder, because her act came after years of emotional and physical abuse at the hand of her husband.

The shooting was done in the “heat of passion,” McKesson said.

After she shot and killed her husband, Adrienne Davidson confessed to police.

Jurors watched a half-hour video today of an emotional conversation between Adrienne Davidson and her daughter after the shooting, when the daughter visited her mother at the Pomona City Jail.

During the visit, Adrienne Davidson said her husband “just broke my heart.”

Jessica Davidson, the couple’s daughter, testified that she urged her mother to contact a divorce attorney after the family learned of Ezra Davidson’s affair.

In response, Adrienne Davidson told her daughter she would “take care if it” on Jan. 1. She didn’t elaborate about what she meant by the vague statement, Jessica Davidson testified.

The family learned that Ezra Davidson had purchased a car for his mistress, while his daughter was driving a car that she said she felt unsafe in.

“I was struggling” financially, the daughter testified.

Before his death, Ezra Davidson was staying many nights in a condo in downtown Los Angeles. He claimed he stayed there because it more easily accommodated his work schedule, his daughter testified.

Ezra Davidson was a well-known online media entrepreneur who co-founded a online video company called SyncCast.

Jessica Davidson testified that she saw her father abuse her mother once, when she was 10 or 11 years old and the family lived in Austria.

She and her mother were sitting together in an upstairs family room, and her father came into the room yelling, the daughter testified.

Ezra Davidson grabbed his wife “and dragged her down two flights of stairs,” the daughter testified.

Jessica Davidson said the attack was prompted by her mother cutting holes in Ezra Davidson’s shirts after she discovered he was having an affair with a stripper.

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Shooter testifies that barber was aggressor in Pomona killing

POMONA — A man accused of shooting and killing a barber took the witness stand today in his murder trial and testified that the barber was the aggressor in the incident, and he shot him because he feared for his life.

Omari Ali testified that Larry Hammett, a barber for 16 years at Groom Time in Pomona, pointed a gun at his face after Ali declined to buy Hammett’s marijuana and told him it was low-grade.

Ali, 21, said he feared Hammett was going to shoot him, so he took the gun from Hammett and shot at him indiscriminately, striking him seven times.

Hammett, 46, of Ontario, died from his wounds in the July 27, 2008 incident.

Prosecutors believe Ali and his friend Keyon Rasheed Hill, 20, went to Groom Time to rob Hammett, and killed him when he resisted their robbery attempt. Hill declined to testify today.

After the shooting, Hammett’s pockets were turned inside-out and his wallet was missing, as was a large bag of marijuana that witnesses said he kept there.

Attorneys are set to give closing arguments Friday morning in Pomona Superior Court, and when arguments end the jury will begin deliberations.

Ali, of Los Angeles, testified that he and his girlfriend, Breeana Finley, went to Pomona with Hill to look at low-income apartments. Hill is from the Pomona area and his aunt managed a complex in the city, Ali said.

After driving to the complex, Hill discovered that his aunt was not working, so the group left for the barbershop, Ali testified.

Hill told the group he wanted to visit the Holt Avenue barbershop to buy marijuana from Hammett, and as they traveled there it occurred to Ali that he could try to buy a quarter-pound of marijuana from Hammett to later sell himself, Ali testified.

“I needed to support me and my girlfriend,” Ali said.

When they arrived at the barbershop, Ali said he waited outside a backroom office while Hill spoke to Hammett about possibly selling a quarter-pound to Ali, who said he had about $200 with him.

After about 15 seconds, Hill opened the office door and introduced Ali to Hammett before leaving the two alone to conduct business, Ali testified.

Hammett told Ali that he didn’t have a quarter-pound of marijuana with him right then, but he could get it, according to Ali.

Hammett then gave Ali a sample of the marijuana, and after smelling it Ali told him he didn’t want to buy from Hammett because the marijuana didn’t smell high-quality, Ali testified.

“I guess he took it as offensive, because he said I was wasting his time,” Ali said.

Ali said he turned to leave the office but Hammett pulled him back, pushed him several times, and told said he couldn’t leave until Hammett allowed it, according to Ali.

Ali said he shoved Hammett and again turned to leave, and Hammett again grabbed him and pulled him back. But this time, according to Ali, Hammett was holding a gun in his right hand.

“I’ll blow your face off,” Hammett said, according to Ali.

The two men struggled over control of the gun, and Ali said he took control of it and immediately began firing at Hammett.

“I shot at him,” Ali said. “I was scared. … I felt like I had to protect my life. I’m not a killer.”
Ali testified that he ran out of the barbershop holding Hammett’s gun, but didn’t take anything else.

The group went from the barbershop to Hill’s friend’s house in Pomona, and while they were there Ali said he threw away the gun from the barbershop in a curbside trash can nearby.

Ali’s description of Hammett’s behavior contradicts much of what the jury has heard this week about Hammett’s character. His friends and co-workers at the barbershop said they never knew the barber to carry a gun.

The jury was told today that Ali has three prior felony convictions: for assault, marijuana sales and gun possession.

They also watched a 20-minute video of Ali’s brother and mother visiting Ali at the Pomona City Jail after he was arrested.

During the visit, Ali’s brother, Rasheed Ali, wrote messages to his brother on a piece of paper that he held up to the glass that separates suspects from visitors.

When police seized the note, they found references to a gun as well as other potentially incriminating passages.

Ali said on the witness stand today that he didn’t remember his brother showing him the note.

Ali and Hill’s defense attorneys implied in their questioning this week that Hammett’s marijuana may have been missing from the barbershop after the shooting not because of a robbery, but because Hammett’s friends cleaned the crime scene before police arrived to keep it secret that Hammett was selling drugs.

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Doctor: Barber shot seven times in Pomona killing

POMONA — A barber who was killed during an alleged robbery was shot seven times, suffering multiple wounds that by themselves would have been fatal, a medical examiner testified today.

And one of the wounds entered Larry Hammett’s body from above his head, the doctor testified, indicating that the 46-year-old Ontario man may have been on the ground when he was shot at the Groom Time barbershop on Holt Avenue.

David Whiteman, who performed Hammett’s autopsy, was one of only two witnesses to testify today during the Pomona Superior Court murder trial of two men accused of robbing and killing Hammett on July 27, 2008.

Alleged shooter Omari Ali, 21, and Keyon Rasheed Hill, 20, visited Groom Time to allegedly rob a large amount of marijuana from Hammett, who sold drugs out of the barbershop.

Prosecutors believe Hammett was shot because he resisted the men’s robbery attempt. Ali and Hill could face life without the possibility of parole if convicted.

Whiteman testified today, the third day of testimony in the trial, that Hammett suffered gunshot wounds to his chest, back, right arm and right hand. Another bullet grazed his chest, the doctor testified.

Defense attorneys for Ali and Hill keyed in during their cross-examination on the doctor’s finding that blood tests showed Hammett had marijuana in his system when he was killed.

After the doctor’s brief testimony, the lead investigator from the Pomona Police Department took the witness stand and detailed the crime scene and other evidence recovered in the case.

Detective Andrew Bebon said Ali received a text message about a week after the shooting indicating that he may have been conducting a marijuana transaction.

The person who sent the message told Ali he could sell a “Q” for $140, Bebon said.

The detective, a narcotics officer for 16 years, said he believed “Q” meant either a “quarter-piece” of cocaine or a quarter-ounce of marijuana.

Prosecutors believe Ali and Hill took a large amount of marijuana from Hammett at Groom Time.
Bebon, who is likely the prosecution’s final witness, is scheduled to retake the stand Thursday morning.

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