Prosecutor Thomas Testa said in San Joaquin County Superior Court on Wednesday, May 30, that defendant Edgar Canseco, 20, texted co-defendant Emmanuel Mendoza, 20, while Canseco rode around in a vehicle on the night of Sept. 15, 2010 with victim, Kevin Prater II, and Prater’s girlfriend.
Testa said the text messages show conversations between the two men were about robbing Prater of more than $2,000 worth of jewelry with a third man, James Stancampiano.
According to Testa, other messages between the two co-defendants contained questions about whether Prater was armed with a gun.
Testa said that when Canseco told Prater to pull over at a dead end section of Sixth Street, west of Tracy Boulevard, to pick up Mendoza, he was robbed by the three men.
The alleged shooter, identified by police as Stancampiano, and Mendoza, emerged from nearby bushes and pointed a rifle at Prater’s chest and demanded the victim’s jewelry.
When Prater didn’t comply, Testa said the three men beat him on the head, and Stancampiano — who is believed by investigators to have fled to Mexico after the crime — shot Prater once in the chest.
“It was a robbery attempt to get the bling (jewelry),” Testa said. “Canseco is the ring leader, setting this whole thing up.”
After the shooting, Testa said Canseco had instructed his younger brother by text message to hide bullets in his bedroom — ammunition that prosecutors claim is similar to that used in the murder weapon.
Although police never recovered the rifle, Testa showed the jury of 13 and three alternates a photo of Canseco holding a rifle that matched the caliber of the bullet used in the killing.
The prosecution called several witnesses during the first phase of the trial.
Sixth Street resident Macaio Teliz testified Wednesday that he heard the fatal shot just after seeing three men exit the bushes near the Sixth Street railroad tracks and approach a car parked across the street from his house.
Teliz said, with the use of a Spanish interpreter, that he looked out his house window and saw two men talking to the driver of a car. He said a third man left the bushes and sat behind the driver. Teliz said a few minutes later, after he stopped looking outside and returned to watching his television, he heard the shot.
“I didn’t see anymore,” he said. “I heard something like a gunshot; strong noise. I looked out and saw them running and the car took off.”
After he was shot, police said Prater drove his car through the intersection of Tracy Boulevard and Sixth Street and crashed into a wrought iron fence.
Tracy police officer Steven Clayton testified that when he arrived at the crash scene around 9 p.m., and found Prater slumped in the front seat, bleeding from his chest.
Paramedic Vince Stroud told the court he and his partner found Prater with a faint pulse and that he not breathing.
He said that after Prater was loaded into the ambulance, his heart stopped beating. They performed CPR while en route to Sutter Tracy Community Hospital, Stroud said, but Prater was later pronounced dead at the hospital.
Prater’s mother, Robin, testified that her son once introduced her to Canseco, and that the two men knew each other since they were students at West High School.
Robin Prater said she last saw her son alive at 7:30 p.m. the night of the shooting, when he and his girlfriend went out for the evening. She said it wasn’t until 2 a.m., that police informed her that her son was killed.
Defense attorneys Jeffrey Hirschfield, handling Mendoza’s defense, and Lance Jacot, overseeing Canseco’s defense, simply reiterated many of the prosecutor’s questions during much of their cross examinations.
The prosecution is expected to present its case into next week, followed by testimony for the defense.
After court concluded for the first day of the trial, Robin Prater said outside the courtroom that she hoped she would see justice delivered.
“It was good,” she said, referring to the first day of testimony. “I feel we’re getting somewhere. I’m never going to get closure. I’m putting this in jurors’ hands — pray we’ll get justice.”
Testimony is scheduled to continue at 9:30 a.m., Thursday, May 31, in Department 24 of Superior Court in Stockton. Prater’s girlfriend, who reportedly witnessed the killing, is slated to take the stand.