General Crime

Trial Begins For Jabrie Bennett and Andre Smith Charged for allegedly Murdering Kenneth Lee Seets in oakland

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A prosecutor told jurors today that a war of words between two groups of young people outside a San Leandro BART station a year ago escalated into a shooting that claimed the life of an innocent bystander who was waiting for a bus.

The victim, 50-year-old Kenneth Lee Seets, was shot outside the Bay Fair BART station at about 12:20 p.m. on Jan. 19, 2013.

In his opening statement in Alameda County Superior Court this morning, prosecutor Mark Melton said that 19-year-old co-defendants Jabrie Bennett and Andre Smith were both armed with guns at the time of the shooting.

Melton said Bennett and Smith didn’t know each other previously but that the two teens and their friends exchanged menacing words while waiting for a bus after going shopping at the Bay Fair mall.

“What started as a verbal quarrel escalated over a very brief time to threats and gunfire,” Melton said.

The shooting claimed the life of Seets, who Melton said was simply waiting for his bus to arrive.

The prosecutor alleged that Bennett fired the shot that killed Seets but said he believes Smith is equally responsible because he lifted his jacket, placed his hand on his gun and walked toward Bennett, which prompted Bennett to open fire.

Showing jurors a video of Seets walking to the bus stop shortly before the shooting occurred, Melton said, “Mr. Seets doesn’t know this, but Jabrie Bennett is the man who will kill him in about 10 minutes.”

Defense attorneys for Bennett and Smith are also expected to present their opening statements today.

At the preliminary hearing in the case last September, Smith’s lawyer, Barbara Thomas, said Smith didn’t cause the shooting and that the only reason he walked toward Bennett’s group is that he wanted to see what was going on.

Bennett’s lawyer, William Locke, said he believes Bennett started shooting because he was afraid that Smith would shoot, and said he thinks Bennett should only have to stand trial for manslaughter, not murder.

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