A witness in the preliminary hearing for two men accused of gunning down two teenage girls near Brookdale Park in East Oakland last November testified today that one of the defendants admitted to firing the deadly barrage of bullets. The witness, Albert Rich, said that defendant Diantay Powell made his admission a few days after 15-year-old Raquel Gerstel and 16-year-old Bobbie Sartain were shot multiple times in the 2600 block of Minna Avenue.
The shooting happened shortly before 6 a.m. on Nov. 25. Powell, 18, is charged with two counts of murder and the special circumstance of committing multiple murders. His co-defendant, 20-year-old Antonio Edwards, is charged with being an accessory for allegedly driving Powell away from the shooting scene. The preliminary hearing will allow a judge to determine whether the evidence in the case is sufficient to hold the pair for trial. Rich, 30, sported long dreadlocks and was dressed in a red jail uniform and shackled when he testified in Alameda County Superior Court today.
He is behind bars for violating his probation for a false imprisonment conviction in an unrelated case. He has also been convicted of illegal gun possession. Rich testified that he gave Powell and Edwards a ride a few days after the shooting after running into them at a music studio in Oakland, and that Edwards told him that Powell had shot the girls. He said Powell then confirmed that he had shot them. Rich said Powell and Edwards told him they were concerned about their DNA being found on Gerstel and Sartain because they had had sex with the two teens.
Rich testified that Powell was “stone-faced” and had a cold look when he talked about killing the girls. Asked by prosecutor Ben Beltramo if Powell seemed “proud” because he had “a body under his belt,” Rich said, “You could say that.” When Powell’s lawyer, William DuBois, asked Rich to explain his comment, Rich said, “I’ve been to prison, right? I know people who have killed, and he (Powell) had a certain look.” Asked by DuBois if Powell is “a little guy,” Rich said “yes.” Jail records indicate that Powell is 5 feet 5 inches tall and weighs 120 pounds.
According to family members and friends, Gerstel and Sartain were friends who grew up together in Alameda. Gerstel lived in San Leandro and was a freshman at Arroyo High School in San Lorenzo. Sartain lived on High Street in Oakland, a few blocks from where the shooting happened. Oakland police Officer Bradley Baker said in a probable cause statement filed in court that multiple witnesses had identified Powell as the person who shot Gerstel and Sartain, and that he had admitted to shooting them. However, Baker didn’t disclose a motive for the shooting.
Rich said he told Oakland police about his conversation with Powell and Edwards after they arrested him for violating his probation. Rich said he decided he had to tell police what Powell and Edwards had told him or he would be sent back to prison. When Edwards’ attorney, David Bryden, asked him if he had “embellished or made up” the purported comments of Powell and Edwards to give police “something solid,” Rich said that wasn’t the case and that he told police the truth. The preliminary hearing will continue this afternoon and into Wednesday.
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