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 in the 2800 block of Sacramento Street at about 7:35 p.m. on March 29.
Prosecutors previously charged 18-year-old Randall Oscar Alston with murder and he pleaded not guilty at a hearing on April 9. Stewart, who is being held without bail, came to court today in a wheelchair, as he allegedly engaged in a shootout with Berkeley police officers on April 13 that left him injured, according to police.
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 he fled on foot and went into a nearby apartment building. Police said that after they surrounded the building Stewart came out and shot at officers 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 but Stewart’s lawyer, Joann Kingston, said today that she might not be prepared by that time and she also 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 that he didn’t kill Whitmire and was on his way to church at the time of the shooting. In a probable cause statement filed in court when charges were filed against Alston, Berkeley police Officer Shan Johnson said 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 knew Alston and acknowledged him and Alston responded by acknowledging Whitmire’s brother, according to Johnson. But Whitmire’s brother then saw Alston and the second suspect approach Whitmire and saw the second suspect displaying a black handgun, Johnson said. The brother yelled a warning to Whitmire and they both began to flee but the brother then heard “numerous gunshots” and discovered that Whitmire had been struck by the gunshots, Johnson said.
About 30 minutes after the shooting, Whitmire’s brother spotted Alston and “physically assaulted him,” according to Johnson. Berkeley police who were nearby spotted the assault and detained the brother and Alston, he said. The brother identified Alston and said he was one of the people responsible for shooting Whitmire, Johnson said. Whitmire was taken to Highland Hospital in Oakland, where he was pronounced dead. Whitmire’s death was the third homicide in Berkeley so far this year.
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