Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Alvarado v. Superior Court (Cal. Ct. App. - Jan. 16, 2007)

Life (and people) are weird sometimes.

Kevin Alvarado was a regular customer at the Texaco mini mart in Azusa, and knew the clerk there -- who also had the last name Alvarado, no relation -- pretty well. Listen to what the defendant did on May 27, 2006:

"On May 27th petitioner [Kevin Alvarado] was in the mini mart three times. Petitioner came in the first time around 2:30 p.m. with a friend and stayed for nearly an hour talking with Alvarado. An hour and a half later petitioner and his friend returned to the mini mart. Petitioner’s friend purchased some beer and the men visited with Alvarado for another 30 minutes or so before leaving.

Petitioner went to the mini mart again shortly after 7:00 p.m. . . . Alvarado came to the front of the store and saw petitioner standing near the beer cooler drinking a beer he held in his hand. Alvarado thought petitioner looked nervous. Alvarado asked petitioner “what was going on?” Petitioner did not respond. Alvarado saw some young men outside and asked petitioner if someone had been chasing him. Again, petitioner did not respond. After a moment petitioner told Alvarado, “I want you to call the police and stand outside of the door.” Alvarado did not take petitioner’s request seriously. Petitioner again asked Alvarado to call the police. Petitioner told Alvarado, “Don’t worry about it. I’m not going to hurt you. Just stay outside, because it’s going to get nasty right now when the police come, between me and the police.”

Alvarado thought petitioner’s comments were completely out of character for the person he knew. Alvarado did not believe petitioner and thought he was just joking or playing around. Alvarado kept asking petitioner, “Are you serious?”

Alvarado finally called police from inside the store. He then noticed a gun lying on top of a rack of candy approximately a foot away from where petitioner stood. The gun was approximately 18 inches long and was later identified as a Mossburg 18 gauge shotgun. From the way it lay on the rack the gun barrel was pointed in the general direction of the glass wall. Alvarado asked petitioner whether it was a BB gun. Petitioner shook his head, “No.” Petitioner told Alvarado not to worry, “I’m not going to hurt you. You’re a cool guy. But I’m on a suicide mission.”

Petitioner opened another beer and lit a cigarette. He told Alvarado to call the police again. At that moment two customers approached the store. Petitioner told Alvarado to go outside and keep the customers from entering the store. Petitioner said it would be best if Alvarado stayed outside as well.

Alvarado went outside to warn the customers off but came back inside to try to talk petitioner out of his plan. Eventually, Alvarado went back outside and called police on his cell phone. He told the 911 dispatcher there was a man inside the store with a gun. The dispatcher informed Alvarado police units were already on the scene. Alvarado turned around and saw a police cruiser at the intersection. Officer Rocky Wenrick spoke with petitioner from outside the store on a cell phone which belonged to petitioner’s brother. Petitioner told the officer “people were fucking with him,” he was on a suicide mission, he was “tired of life and wanted to end it
now.” The officer asked petitioner several times to come out of the store. Petitioner responded he wanted to drink his beer while he decided what to do. Petitioner asked to speak with a police officer inside the store. Officer Wenrick told petitioner “that wouldn’t happen.” Petitioner next asked to speak with a person he trusted at the Pacific Clinics.

After about five minutes of conversation, petitioner came out of the store unarmed. Another officer recovered the shotgun from the top of a potato chip/candy rack."

That's a pretty weird story. But let me ask you this: What crime do you think the defendant is charged with?

There are lots of potentials, obviously. Firearms offenses, etc. But, perhaps surprisingly, the answer is: Burglary. Which is a strange answer, though, doctrinally, burglary is a strange crime, so I think that's a proper charge. It's even weirder, though, when the state adds an enhancement allegation that defendant "used" a firearm in the commission of the burglary. Ultimately, Justice Johnson holds that he didn't, and grants his writ petition to strike the allegation. Which also makes sense to me.

Still, I'm left with the sense that neither law nor life is very intuitive sometimes.