After naming and securing two suspects, Sacramento police said Tuesday they are looking for a third person suspected of involvement in the capital’s worst gun violence – a shooting that killed six people and injured 12 earlier in the year. last week.
Despite these developments, authorities face a monumental task in resolving the case: laying charges and prosecuting those responsible. Here’s why:
The crime scene is vast and complicated
There were actually three different crime scenes, one block from the California Capitol, spread over 100 yards. When police arrived in the early hours of April 3, they found six bodies and twice as many injured amid a scattered crowd of late-night revelers. At least three buildings and three vehicles were hit by bullets.
Evidence technicians and detectives planted more than 250 evidence markers and documented at least 100 instances of bombings at the scene.
As part of their investigation, homicide detectives must recreate what happened, down to the shots fired, who was shooting them, and which shooters intended homicide, instead of defending themselves.
“Recreating this crime scene is a huge task for any police department – it’s not really one crime scene but several for each of the victims,” said California Sheriff’s Deputy Ed Obayashi. North and force expert who teaches investigators. how to construct such cases.
Only one weapon was found at the scene
According to Sacramento police, one gun was recovered from the scene of the shooting – others were apparently removed before officers arrived. The weapon recovered was a stolen weapon converted with a so-called auto-sear or switch to make it a fully automatic weapon, police said.
While executing search warrants, police said they were also able to recover “at least one handgun.” It is not known if this weapon was used in the shooting, or how many other weapons have yet to be recovered. Police said “at least five shooters fired guns during the shooting”, suggesting more guns are on the loose.
The recovery of these weapons is important. It helps investigators recreate the crime scene and match recovered bullets to firearms, victims and suspects.
Obayashi suspects that some weapons will never be recovered. “The weapons are buried somewhere,” he said. This adds some hurdles to crime scene reconstruction, but not impossible, he added.
A tool for investigators: nearly 200 videos and other evidence of the incident that can help them piece together what happened.
Billy Hayes, who headed the Los Angeles Police Department’s robbery and homicide division for more than a decade before retiring, said not having all the guns was a hindrance, but given the casings, the police should be able to prepare a solid analysis.
“It’s about breaking it all down, one piece at a time,” he said. “Follow the evidence and it will lead to the killers.”
At least one suspected shooter is still at large
Sacramento police on Tuesday asked for the public’s help in locating a suspect, 27-year-old Mtula Payton, whom they named as being involved in the shooting.
“Payton’s current whereabouts are unknown at this time,” police said in a news release. “Detectives made multiple attempts to locate and arrest him while exhausting all leads.”
The decision to release the fugitive’s name and share his image likely means investigators have exhausted the low-key approach of using street sources to find the suspect, sources outside the Times told.
The police sought to put a positive spin on their progress.
“The investigation has moved very quickly in this first week,” Sacramento Police Chief Kathy Lester said in the news release. The investigation, she added, “will continue until we can present prosecutors and the public with a full picture of this terrible crime.”
Witnesses reluctant to come forward?
When police began to investigate, they quickly concluded a key cause for the shooting. “It is increasingly clear that gang violence is at the center of this tragedy,” police said in an April 6 statement.
Police did not name the gangs, but sources say members of the Sacramento Crips and Bloods were involved.
It is unclear whether any of the shooting victims—both the dead and injured—had affiliations with these groups, but the implication of gang involvement is still significant.
Eyewitnesses may be reluctant to share what they saw for fear of gang retaliation. Distrust of the police is widespread in Sacramento and other cities, making it difficult to find witnesses.
The sheer number of people involved makes it a difficult investigation, the former Los Angeles Dist said. Atti. Steve Cooley.
“This is probably one of the most complex cases to put together in a long time in terms of a fatal shooting because there are so many perpetrators,” he said. “It’s incredibly complicated with static and portable videos, ballistics spread over acres and statements from people under fire.”
He said some shooters will no doubt claim some form of self-defense, a factor that prosecutors will have to deal with.
No named suspects have yet been charged
Police have named Payton, Smiley Martin and his brother, Dandrae Martin, as involved in the shooting. Yet neither Smiley Martin nor his brother – who was arrested and jailed – have been formally charged in connection with the shooting. Nor was Payton, who prior to the massacre was already wanted on multiple felony warrants, including domestic violence and firearms charges.
Smiley Martin remains hospitalized with injuries from the shooting. Once his medical treatment is complete, “he will be incarcerated in Sacramento County Main Jail for Possession of a Firearm by a Prohibited Person and Possession of a Machine Gun,” police said April 5.
To add to the mystery: When Dandrae Martin appeared in court last week, he was not charged with murder, or even assault with a firearm, a crime for which he was arrested, but only for be a criminal in possession of a firearm.
Legal experts say they are not surprised at the lack of charges, given that this shooting is recent.
“There’s an awful lot of investigations to be done. Hundreds of videos need to be reviewed,” Cooley said. “There are potential people who could be witnesses and/or there are people involved. They need to be unpacked. before anyone can be charged. In due course, you will see charges of murder and attempted murder.
Former LA County prosecutor Alan Jackson agrees. Prosecutors, he said, will have to present jurors with an account of the deadly events, showing who did what and when.
It takes time, he says. That can’t be done until police and prosecutors gather “all the evidence you can to justify filing a bulletproof case.”
Times writers Anita Chabria in Sacramento and Stuart Leavenworth in Berkeley contributed to this report.
Los Angeles Times