Alejandra Fouda told a jury and San Diego Superior Court Judge Kerry Wells on Oct. 30 she was in the car with Berki, 18, when they drove to the 2800 block of Casey Avenue in Paradise Hills to find the seller of a computer advertised on Craigslist.
Berki and Fouda were robbed of more than $600, along with their cell phones, but Berki drove after the thieves to try and get the suspects’ license-plate number. The couple found the suspects’ vehicle on a cul-de-sac and Berki was shot during a confrontation.
Fouda said she remembered some of the license-plate number, despite the trauma of the incident. She identified defendant Rashon Jay Abernathy, 18, as the man in the suspects’ Honda who fired on Berki from the backseat of that vehicle. She also identified the driver as Seandell Lee Jones, 19, and Shaquille Kasiya Jordan, 18, as the third suspect.
Many family members and friends were present for her testimony in the trial’s second week. The trio is charged with murder, three counts of robbery and firing into an occupied vehicle.
Abernathy lived in Paradise Hills, just blocks from where the shooting occurred. Jordan lived in north Encanto and Jones lived in southeast San Diego. All three men were arrested later that night on May 11, 2011.
Berki graduated from La Jolla High School in 2010 and was attending Mesa College at the time. He was shot through the windshield. He was hit in the shoulder, but the bullet entered his lungs and severed arteries. Berki died in a hospital.
Police Det. Paul Conley testified Nov. 1 about the brass casing left behind on the street by the gunman. He said pieces of Berki’s rear-view mirror, which was also shattered, were found in the street.
Conley noted there were no streetlights in the area of Casey Avenue where the robbery took place. Surrounding the area are residential apartments.
On Nov. 2, Deputy District Attorney Kristian Trocha presented an audio recording of the three suspects in a holding cell following their arrests that night. The handcuffed trio spoke in whispers, but apparently didn’t know the room had recording equipment.
Jurors, attorneys and San Diego Superior Court Judge Kerry Wells followed along with a prepared transcript, most of which was not understandable to the audienc. Trocha said in his opening statement the trio discussed different actions they should have taken, like stealing Berki’s car keys or shooting his tires, but they didn’t say they should not have shot Berki.
“Don’t say nothing,” said one defendant.
Abernathy was led out of the room by a police officer and one defendant said, “I didn’t know he was going to shoot,” to the other. He said he thought being an accessory drew a five-year sentence, and pondered what could happen “if I told them he did it.”
An officer came in and told all three that he was trying to locate their “mommies” because they were all 17 and were in a stolen car at the time of the incident. He said they would be transported to Juvenile Hall.
If the trio is convicted of first-degree murder, they could face at least 25 years to life in prison. There is no accessory charge, and all three have been ordered to stand trial as adults.
Abernathy’s lawyer told jurors in her opening statement the shooting was accidental because the driver hit the brakes, causing the firearm to discharge after he held it outside the rear passenger window.
Daniel Montoya, the owner of the stolen gun used in the murder, testified someone took four firearms from a safe in his home. Montoya said it wasn’t possible for the firearm to discharge accidentally.
“It’s designed not to have accidental problems due to liability,” said Montoya. “It’s not going to fire accidentally unless you mean it.”
The trial is expected to conclude before Thanksgiving. The men remain in jail on $5 million bail each.