A man was convicted today of two counts of first-degree murder and multiple murder for killing two men in a gang-related shooting in Berkeley three years ago. Prosecutor Jim Meehan said Desmen Lankford, 27, is “a remorseless killer” who belonged to a north Oakland gang that had been involved in a shooting war with a South Berkeley gang and said the shooting was one of the most cold-blooded cases he’s handled in his long career.
Lankford, who looked straight ahead and showed no emotion, was convicted of murdering Kelvin Earl Davis, 23, of Berkeley, and Kevin Antoine Parker, 42, of Oakland, in front of a small apartment complex at 1436 Derby St. in Berkeley about 12:15 a.m. on Sept. 18, 2008. The jury’s finding that he committed multiple murders means that he faces life in prison without the possibility of parole when he’s sentenced by Alameda County Judge Joan Cartwright on Nov. 10.
Meehan told jurors that Lankford actually wanted to find and shoot Kelvin Davis’s twin brother, Melvin Davis, three years ago but when he could not locate Melvin Davis he decided to go after his brother. The Davis brothers were both drug dealers who were known to Berkeley police, according to Meehan.
He said Lankford was affiliated with a gang that called itself “The Cold Gunners From North Oakland.” The prosecutor said Lankford fatally shot Kelvin Davis but also wound up fatally shooting Parker because Parker was with Davis. Parker refurbished cars and had just finished selling a used car to Davis in front of the apartment complex where he lived when Lankford opened fire, Meehan said.
Authorities believe that a second man helped Lankford and also fired shots but that suspect was never arrested or charged, Meehan said. He said the investigation remains open. Davis and Parker both were pronounced dead at the scene. Meehan said Lankford was arrested after police searched an Oakland apartment where authorities believe he lived and found a gun that was used in the shooting as well as bullets similar to those used in the shooting.
Police also found a hooded sweatshirt with a skeleton design that a witness said the shooting suspect wore, Meehan said. In addition, police found a camera that had a photo of Lankford proudly holding two guns, including one similar to the SIG Sauer semi-automatic pistol used in the shooting, Meehan said. Lankford’s trial was laced with drama. On one occasion, a hallway confrontation erupted between Lankford’s family and the victims’ families.
On another day a prosecution witness who had shared a jail cell with Lankford and told authorities that Lankford had made incriminating admissions about the shooting fled from the courthouse shortly before he was scheduled to testify. A warrant has been issued for the witness because his plea bargain in his assault case called for him to testify against Lankford.
Meehan said today that Lankford “was prepared to take whatever steps were necessary, including murder, to dissuade witnesses from testifying.” But he said Lankford’s conduct and attitude make his murder convictions “more gratifying.
“Lankford’s attorney, Thomas Broome, said he will appeal the convictions, saying the prosecution’s witnesses weren’t credible because they have substantial criminal histories. Kelvin Davis’s cousin, Vonzetta Golson, said, “We’re happy with the verdict because it’s been three years of hell since Kelvin was killed.”
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