General Crime

* Angesom Mehari Testifies Asmerom Gebreselassie Allegedly Shot Yonas Mehari and Regbe Bahrengasi

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A witness in a triple-murder trial testified today that an in-law interrupted his family’s Thanksgiving Day dinner at their home in Oakland in 2006 by firing a hail of bullets that struck his brother and mother. Angesom Mehari, 24, testified that Asmerom Gebreselassie, 47,  yelled, “Don’t move!” and shot his brother, 17-year-old Yonas Mehari, then their mother, 50-year-old Regbe Bahrengasi, when she came to Yonas’ aid. The witness said he then jumped out the window of the family’s third-floor apartment at the Keller Plaza apartment complex at 5301 Telegraph Ave. in Oakland at about 3 p.m. on Nov. 23, 2006, because he feared for his life. Mehari said he suffered a broken back from his leap, lost consciousness and was hospitalized. He said he didn’t find out until several days later that his mother and brother had died in the shooting, as did his sister, 28-year-old Winta Mehari.

Gebreselassie, who is acting as his own attorney in the case, admitted in his opening statement that he fatally shot all three victims but said he did so in self-defense and alleged that Merhawi Mehari, a brother of Angesom, Yonas and Winta, had pulled out a gun. However, prosecutor Joni Leventis told jurors that there’s no evidence that any members of the Mehari family were armed. Leventis said Gebreselassi carried out the shooting rampage because he mistakenly believed that Winta Mehari and her family members were responsible for the death of his brother, 42-year-old Abraham Tewolde, at the couple’s home at 2238 Russell St. in Berkeley. She said Berkeley police didn’t find any evidence of foul play in Tewolde’s death. Asmerom Gebreselassie’s brother, 43-year-old Tewodros Gebreselassie, is also charged in the case because authorities allege that he aided and abetted Asmerom by letting Asmerom into the Meharis’ apartment.

Leventis said the Mehari family never would have let Asmerom into their apartment but allowed Tewodros to come inside on Thanksgiving Day because they trusted him. Asmerom Gebreselassie will cross-examine Angesom Mehari later today. The Gebreselassi brothers are each charged with three counts of murder plus two special-circumstance murder clauses: committing multiple murders and committing murder during the course of a kidnapping. They also face one count of attempted murder for the nonfatal shooting of Yehtram Mehari, another brother or Winta and Yonas. Additionally, each is charged with one count of kidnapping for allegedly taking Winta Mehari’s 2-year-old son, Isaac, from the scene, and two counts of false imprisonment. The brothers and the victims in the case are all from Eritrea, and the case has split Oakland’s Eritrean community. Hearings in the case have been packed with supporters of both the Gebreselassie brothers and the victims.

Copyright © 2011 by Bay City News, Inc. — Republication, Rebroadcast or any other Reuse without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited.

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