A 16-year-old boy was ordered today to stand trial in adult court on a murder charge for the shooting death of off-duty paramedic Quinn Boyer in the Oakland hills in April. In making his ruling against Christian Burton at the end of a preliminary hearing that only lasted an hour, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Paul Delucchi rejected Burton’s attorney’s contention that the charge against Burton should be dismissed because Burton’s confession to being the shooter is unreliable.
Ernie Castillo, Burton’s lawyer, argued that Oakland police used aggressive and “reckless” tactics to get Burton to admit that he shot Boyer and that Burton’s confession is “inconsistent” with other evidence in the case. Castillo said Burton doesn’t match the description of the shooter that was provided by a woman who witnessed the incident shortly before noon on April 2.Instead, he said another youth who allegedly was at the scene that day more closely resembles the description the woman gave.
But Delucchi said the issue of whether Burton’s confession is credible should be left to a trial jury and he believes prosecutors presented sufficient evidence to have him stand trial.Delucchi said he gives Burton’s confession “a lot” of weight because Burton began his interview with police on April 16 by denying that he was involved in the shooting but ended it by admitting he was the shooter after police revealed that they had incriminating evidence against him.
A large number of family members and friends of Boyer, 34, who grew up in Oakland and worked as a paramedic for five years, attended Burton’s hearing today. Boyer was shot while driving in a Honda Civic on Keller Avenue just below Skyline Boulevard shortly before noon on April 2 and crashed his car down a ravine in the 5200 block of Keller Avenue. He died two days later.Boyer, who was in Oakland on April 2 to take his father to a medical appointment, died from a single gunshot wound to his head, according to the evidence presented at the hearing.
In addition to Burton, who is being prosecuted as an adult, five other boys have been charged in juvenile court with multiple felonies, including murder, for their alleged roles in the crime. Oakland police Sgt. Randolph Brandwood testified today that Burton admitted to police that he and five other youths had carjacked a gold Dodge Intrepid from outside the Island Market on High Street in East Oakland shortly before Boyer was shot and were in that car when they spotted Boyer on Keller Avenue.
Burton also told police that he and the other youths were planning to steal someone’s car and cellphone that day, Brandwood said. Under cross-examination by Castillo, Brandwood said Burton told police that the shooting of Boyer was an accident and he didn’t realize that the gun he was carrying was loaded because his friends had told him it didn’t have any bullets. But prosecutor Joseph Goethals said he believes the evidence in the case indicates that Burton was clearly aiming at Boyer’s head because it’s difficult to shoot someone in a moving vehicle.
Goethals said the evidence shows that the shooting “was willful” and Burton “knew what he was doing.” Delucchi said he agrees that, “It’s very clear where Mr. Burton was aiming the gun and that this was a headshot during a carjacking that went wrong.” In addition to murder, Burton faces a special-circumstance allegation that he murdered Boyer during the course of a carjacking. He could face life in prison without parole if he’s convicted of that charge but he’s not eligible for the death penalty because he’s a juvenile. Burton, who will turn 17 on Wednesday, is scheduled to return to court on Nov. 13 for a pretrial hearing.
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