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Witness describes near-fatal gunshot wounds in Richmond, can’t identify attacker

on January 24, 2012

Two witnesses took the stand Monday to talk about being the victims of violent crimes, but neither implicated the man prosecutors say was the perpetrator.

“How did that feel, being shot,” Deputy District Attorney Derek Butts asked one witness, a 32-year-old man Richmond Police have said is a central Richmond gang member.

“I didn’t feel it,” the man said, referring to the bullets that ripped through his right arm and into the right side of his chest, nearly killing him while he drove his purple Buick in Richmond. “I don’t remember it,” he added.

On the fourth day of testimony, prosecutors called eight witnesses in the case against Joe Blacknell III, age 21, who is accused of committing 22 felonies over two days in 2009, including the murder of East Bay rap artist Marcus Russell.

Blacknell has pleaded not guilty. His attorney, Public Defender Diana Garrido, says her client has alibis for his whereabouts during times in question and that the prosecution has no conclusive evidence linking him to the crimes.

Monday’s proceedings were packed with harrowing accounts. Officers told of how they used dogs track down and capture an allegedly gun-toting Blacknell after shooting five rounds at him, all missing. Residents from two separate cars described sitting at a stop light on a Sunday morning in September 2009 when four men jumped from a car, pulled out guns and fired more than 50 rounds into a purple Buick on Harbor Way and Chanslor Avenue. An Oakland man admitted that he was carjacked for his Nissan Maxima by at least three gun-brandishing men in front of a liquor store at 86th and International Boulevard in East Oakland, but made no effort to hide his disdain for taking the stand.

“I don’t want to be here,” the man said, adding later that he is a multiple-time felon and didn’t want to risk arrest for not coming to court.

Neither the man in Oakland nor the Richmond resident, who recovered after several weeks in the hospital, identified Blacknell, seated about 20 feet away, as their assailant. Both made it clear their testimony was compelled by court subpoena.

The prosecution alleges that Blacknell and unknown accomplices shot the central Richmond man – who survived another gunshot wound to his leg earlier that year – as part of an ongoing feud between Central Richmond gangs and South and North Richmond gangs allied against them.

The carjacking in Oakland was motivated by a need to dump a vehicle used in previous crimes, prosecutors allege.

Both incidents were part of a slew of crimes committed on Sept. 13, 2009, in part in observance of the three-year anniversary of the murder of their fellow South Richmond gang member, Sean Melson, Butts has said. That morning, Blacknell is accused of shooting two suspected gang rivals in the Pullman Apartments. Blacknell and others next allegedly went to Eighth and Adeline streets in Oakland and unloaded dozens of rounds into a car containing a 30-year-old man and his 10-year-old niece, severely wounding the man.

That afternoon, they allegedly carjacked an elderly man for his Chevrolet Malibu in Oakland, then returned to Richmond, where they shot at two men, wounding the one in the purple Buick

Officer Kristian Palma testified Monday that it was after these incidents, with the city on high alert, that he overheard another officer’s radio dispatch of a foot pursuit and sped to the scene. Four men had just bolted from the Nissan Maxima carjacked in Oakland, and Palma and his partner Wallace Jensen came upon one at Cutting Boulevard and 18th Street.

Palma testified that he saw the man with a gun in his right hand and chased him into an alcove between two houses in the 500 block of south 18th Street. From less than 20 feet away, Palma testified that he saw Blacknell – whom he knew from previous encounters in the neighborhood – with the aid of light mounted underneath his gun’s barrel. Blacknell had aimed a gun toward him, Palma said. From behind Palma, Jensen fired three shots at Blacknell.

“I thought that (Blacknell) was shooting at me,” Palma said. Palma fired two shots at him as he slipped through a fence.

With the aid of police dogs, officers apprehended Blacknell minutes later on the roof of a house in the 1600 block of Hoffman Street. Officers recovered a gun and a 30-round magazine in a crevice in the roof.

The trial resumes at 9 a.m. Tuesday. If convicted, Blacknell faces life in prison.

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