General Crime

* David Lee Hall and three juveniles killed Antonio Torres on 34th Avenue in Oakland

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A 19-year-old man pleaded not guilty today to murder and robbery charges in connection with the brazen daytime robbery and fatal shooting of a gardener in Oakland’s Fruitvale District four months ago.

Oakland police allege that David Lee Hall and three juveniles killed 42-year-old Antonio Torres while he was working in the front yard of a client’s home in the 1600 block of 34th Avenue at about 1 p.m. on May 20 because they wanted to steal his gold necklace and his iPod.

Sgt. Mike Gantt said last Wednesday that it took a while to solve the case, but in August an informant told police that he had overheard a 17-year-old juvenile bragging about shooting Torres. Gantt said police detained that suspect two weeks ago, he confessed to being involved in the crime and provided information about the other three suspects, including Hall.

Gantt said Hall and the two other juveniles, ages 15 and 16, were arrested on Sept. 8 and also confessed to being involved in the robbery and shooting death of Torres. It takes months or even years before most murder defendants have preliminary examinations in their cases. But at a brief hearing today, Hall refused to waive his right to a speedy preliminary examination and Alameda County Superior Court Judge Carrie Panetta scheduled it to begin on Sept. 28.

The purpose of the preliminary examination is to determine if there’s enough evidence to have Hall stand trial on the charges against him. One of the juveniles in the case made his initial appearance in Alameda County Juvenile today and it’s expected that the other two juveniles will appear in court soon.

In announcing the arrest of Hall and the three juveniles last Wednesday, Oakland Assistant Police Chief Howard Jordan said people wearing gold necklaces and chains have been the target of numerous crimes in the past  six months because the price of gold has soared, and stealing gold items is “a lucrative business.

“Jordan said police are warning people to “be vigilant” and pay attention to their surroundings if they wear gold items. Less than 24 hours later, at about 9:40 a.m. on Thursday, two suspects allegedly robbed gold jewelry from a mother and her child in the 4700 block of Bancroft Avenue in Oakland, police said. Those suspects are still at large.

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