The trial of 15-year-old Ricardo Juarez resumed today with testimony from eyewitness Brent Daniels, who watched the gang fight that resulted in the fatal stabbing of Luis Angel Linares through his office window across from Saks Fifth Avenue.
On March 14, 2007, Daniels was walking back to his office at 3 West Carrillo Street when he noted an unfamiliar feeling on State Street - a “higher vibe,” a buzz of activity greater than usual for a regular business day. Once he was back in his office on the second floor of the building, the increasing noise from the large number of people outside his window, which overlooks the intersection of State and Carrillo streets, drew his attention. He noticed a group on the east side of State Street wearing baggy blue T-shirts moving northbound and another group on the west side of State Street wearing white T-shirts moving south. Throughout his testimony, Daniels referred to these two groups as the “blue team” and the “white team.”
Daniels watched the two groups, of what seemed to him to be high school-aged youths, yelling, throwing rocks and bottles, and making hand gestures at each other. As Daniels recalled the events he witnessed that day, he chose his words carefully and calmly articulated what he remembered. He said the blue team initiated contact, running across the street toward the white team. A few of the blue members at the front were carrying a knife, aluminum baseball bat, and sharp wooden objects which were being swung in a manner he deemed out of control. As the blue team approached, Daniels said the white team was holding their own area, “clearly braced for engagement.”
Prosecutor Hilary Dozer continued to question Daniels as to the specific location of the events that he witnessed as the two groups become engaged in the crosswalk at the intersection of State and Carrillo streets. In the chaos of the melee, “I saw a lot of fists flying,” Daniels said.
A lot was going on at that moment, so after the initial contact was made, Daniels focused on the “blue team member” who was holding the knife out in front of him, continuously displaying the large blade in an obvious fashion. Those types of items catch your attention quickly, he said. He testified watching the male from the blue team, armed with the knife, run toward a specific person on the white team. This white team member appeared to be attempting to avoid the thrusting motions of the person with the knife by stepping backward. Daniels testified that the white team member had no visible weapon and made no offensive action.
From his position looking down over the brawl, Daniels said he was able to observe the event pretty clearly. Daniels described the event as “all hell breaking loose.” Precisely and straight to the point, he continued to describe the multiple thrusts made toward the upper torso, arm, and chest area of the white team member. After the first stabbing, the victim fell backward to the ground, after which a few of his teammates assisted him up and onto the sidewalk. The white team moved west on Carrillo, away from the rapidly pursuing blue team member with the knife.
About halfway down the Saks Fifth Avenue building, the victim and the assailant fell out of Daniels’s view, but only for a minute or so until he saw the blue team returning in an easterly direction. Daniels said he was shocked to see this because there were a large number of police officers congregated in the intersection the blue team was running toward. At this point, Daniels noted that several individuals were detained in front of Montecito Bank & Trust and Morninglory Music. Daniels testified that the person with the knife was burned into his memory. “You don’t see a knife fight on State Street very often,” he said.
Immediately after, Daniels was put in contact with Officer Mark Hunt and asked to identify the individual with the knife and the individual with the baseball bat, which Daniels was easily able to do. But on the stand this afternoon, when asked again to identify the individual he saw more than a year ago holding a knife, Daniels said, “As of today, I won’t point anyone out.” He assured the court that on March 14 he was 100 percent accurate in his statement, but people change and it had been a long time since that day.
In addition to Daniels’s testimony, two officers took the stand in today’s hearing. One was Officer Bob Casey, a State Street bicycle patrol officer who was on duty the day of the incident. Casey was made aware of the commotion outside of the Borders Book and Music Store on State Street, where he went and began to break up large groups of young people. In less than 20 minutes, Casey realized the magnitude of the situation and made three separate calls for assistance. He then ran back down State Street to NorthStar Coffee Company to retrieve his bicycle. He returned to the intersection of Carrillo and State streets to find a scene he described as “total chaos.”
Casey described his search of the area and the evidence he ascertained, such as a sheath found near a State Street sewer and a metal blade and part of a black handle found in a trash can outside Saks Fifth Avenue. After finding these items, Casey informed crime scene investigation officers to have the evidence properly removed.