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A 17-year-old boy pleaded not guilty today to a murder charge stemming from a shooting incident in West Oakland last year that claimed the life of a 23-month-old boy who was an innocent bystander. Frederick Coleman of Oakland, who is being prosecuted as an adult and is being held without bail, is scheduled to return to Alameda County Superior Court on March 11 for a preliminary hearing.
According to Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley and U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag, last Nov. 28 Coleman and two older men, Dionte Houff, 30, and Houston Nathaniel III, 23, shot at a group of people in the 700 block of Willow Street that they believed were rival gang members, wounding six of the people and causing the death of Hiram Lawrence Jr., who was taken off life support on Dec. 9.
In addition to the murder charge for Hiram’s death, Coleman is charged with six counts of attempted murder for the shooting of the other six victims in the case, who were two teenage boys and four adults. Coleman, who was only 16 at the time of the shooting, also is charged with gang enhancement clauses that allege that he committed the crimes to benefit a criminal street gang. O’Malley and Haag allege that Coleman, Houff and Nathaniel all belong to the Acorn gang in West Oakland. Houff and Nathaniel are being prosecuted separately from Coleman in federal court.
Oakland police Officer Eriberto Perez-Angeles said in a probable cause declaration filed in court that Coleman, Houff and Nathaniel all fired at the victims in the incident “multiple times” and the shooting was recorded by surveillance cameras in the area. Coleman’s attorney, Richard Foxall, indicated today that he’s not eager for the case to go forward even though the shooting occurred a year ago.
Asked by Alameda County Superior Court Judge Carrie Panetta if he was ready to enter a not guilty plea on behalf of Coleman, Foxall said he would do so only “if your honor insists on it.” Panetta insisted on it and Foxall then entered the plea for Coleman, who didn’t speak at today’s brief hearing.
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