A 19-year-old Berkeley man pleaded not guilty today to a murder charge stemming from the shooting death of another man outside a Berkeley liquor store in late March.
Calvester Stewart is the second suspect to be charged with murder for the death of 24-year-old Devin Lee Whitmire of Berkeley on the 2800 block of Sacramento Street at about 7:35 p.m. March 29. Prosecutors previously charged 18-year-old Randall Oscar Alston with murder; he pleaded not guilty at a hearing on April 9.
Stewart, who is being held without bail, came to court today in a wheelchair, the result of injuries he sustained in an alleged shootout with Berkeley police officers on April 13.
Berkeley police said they attempted to make a traffic stop on him near Eighth and Delaware streets at about 10:40 p.m. that night but that he fled on foot into a nearby apartment building. After they surrounded the building, they said Stewart came out shooting, but they returned fire and an officer struck him.
Berkeley police said they expected Stewart to be charged with several counts of attempted murder of a peace officer but the Alameda County District Attorney's Office only charged him with possession of a firearm by a felon. Prosecutors allege that Stewart has a prior conviction for possession of a firearm.
Alston and Stewart are scheduled to return to Alameda County Superior Court on May 21 for a preliminary hearing. However, Stewart's lawyer, Joann Kingston, said today that she might not be prepared by that time. In addition, she said she will seek to have Stewart prosecuted separately from Alston. Judge Carrie Panetta scheduled a hearing on those issues for May 14.
After Alston entered his not guilty plea on April 9, his attorney, James Giller, said Alston claims he was on his way to church at the time of the shooting. Berkeley police Officer Shan Johnson contend that Whitmire and his brother were on the sidewalk outside Bob's Liquors and Deli at Sacramento and Oregon streets when they were approached by Alston and a second suspect, whom Johnson didn't name.
Whitmire's brother allegedly saw Alston and a second suspect approach Whitmire and brandish a handgun, Johnson said. The brother called out a warning, but heard a hail of gunshots and discovered Whitmire had been shot. The brother later identified Alston as one of the people responsible for shooting Whitmire, Johnson said. Whitmire was taken to Highland Hospital in Oakland, where he was pronounced dead. It was the third homicide in Berkeley this year.
-- Bay City News Service