Murder charges against 18-year-old Randall Alston were dismissed last Tuesday when a key witness in the killing of Devin Whitmire earlier this year accused another man of the shooting during a preliminary hearing.
Whitmire, 24, was fatally shot at about 7:35 p.m. the night of March 29 at the corner of Oregon and Sacramento streets in South Berkeley in what marked the city’s third homicide of the year. Alston, a Berkeley resident, originally pled not guilty to one charge of felony murder on April 9.
Alston was arrested in connection to the shooting approximately 30 minutes after it occurred outside of Bob’s Liquors & Deli.
Calvester Stewart, 19, is still charged with the alleged murder of Whitmire and is currently accused of being the shooter. Tuesday’s preliminary hearing, during which a judge was to decide if there was enough evidence to order Alston and Stewart to stand trial, did not proceed as planned because Whitmire’s brother, 22-year-old Darnell Robinson — who was with Whitmire when he was shot — said in his witness testimony that Alston was not involved in the shooting, according to a report by the Bay City News.
Robinson then pointed at a man in the audience and said, “That’s the guy who did it,” according to Alston’s lawyer, James Giller, the report states.
According to the report, Giller said that court authorities subpoenaed the man Robinson pointed at and took a statement from him, but Berkeley Police Department officials did not arrest him at the time.
Giller also said that Alston, who has been under arrest since March 29, is no longer in custody.
The district attorney’s office could not be reached for comment as of press time.
An individual preliminary hearing with Stewart took place Thursday and is scheduled to continue throughout the coming week, according to the report.
When case prosecutor Joseph Goethals asked Robinson if he saw the man who shot his brother in court, Robinson hesitated for a long time before he finally said, “I think so” and pointed at Stewart.
“I’ve never seen you before in my life,” Stewart then yelled at Robinson.
According to the report, under cross-examination last Thursday from Stewart’s lawyer, Joann Kingston, Robinson said he does not think the shooting was related to an ongoing feud between two Berkeley gangs, the Waterfront Gang and the South Berkeley Gang.
“I don’t know why they shot my brother,” Robinson said during the cross-examination. “They probably thought he was someone else.”
Stewart is also the main suspect in an April 13 shooting involving police and is being held without bail on suspicion of the attempted murder of five police officers after he allegedly opened fire on the officers while fleeing from them, according to a press release issued by the Berkeley Police Department in April.
Anjuli Sastry is an assistant news editor.