A woman accused of deliberately hitting and killing a man with a car at the site of a street party in East Oakland last month pleaded not guilty to murder charges today. Deja Lewis, 19, is scheduled to return to Alameda County Superior Court on Aug. 20 for a pretrial hearing. Judge Carrie Panetta also scheduled Lewis’s preliminary examination to begin on Sept. 5.
Oakland police allege that Lewis ran over 33-year-old Oakland resident Luis Velasco at the corner of 61st Avenue and Eastlawn Street shortly after 9 p.m. on June 16, which was a Saturday night. In addition to murder, Lewis faces a use of a deadly weapon enhancement clause for allegedly using her car to strike and kill Velasco. Officer Leonel Sanchez said in a probable cause statement filed in court that Lewis, who is black, has confessed that she knowingly ran over Velasco with her vehicle but claims that she did so after she “was allegedly physically assaulted by an unknown male Hispanic in the 1300 block of 61st Avenue.”
According to Sanchez, Lewis then drove to her home, which is two blocks away, and told her sister and five friends that she had been assaulted. Lewis, her sister and the four friends then got into the maroon Buick Regal that Lewis was driving and “returned to the scene to confront the male Hispanic that allegedly had assaulted her,” Sanchez said. Lewis and some of the occupants got our of the car and “began to yell at the male Hispanics who were loitering in the area” where the street party was taking place, he said. Velasco was one of the men standing in front of Lewis’ car but he “was not threatening or being confrontational toward Lewis or her friends,” according to Sanchez.
Police said they aren’t sure if Velasco was part of the original confrontation at which Lewis alleged she was assaulted or if he came to the party after Lewis left to get her sister and friends. Lewis got back into her car, drove away quickly and “knowingly and suddenly accelerated,” running over Velasco, Sanchez said. Velasco was pronounced dead at the scene. The occupants in Lewis’s car told her that she had run over someone but she continued to drive to her house, according to Sanchez.
Lewis was arrested several hours later and the car was recovered and admitted that she had a suspended driver’s license and shouldn’t have been driving, Sanchez said. He said investigators determined that “Lewis was not provoked by Velasco in any manner.”
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