Judge Ron Northrup heard witness testimony Wednesday during a preliminary hearing in the Manteca branch of the San Joaquin County Superior Court and ruled that there was sufficient evidence against Lorenzo Kiko Hotel to hold him to answer for three counts of premeditated attempted murder. The charges include two enhancements of personal and intentional discharge of a firearm — using a gun in the commission of a crime and injuring someone with the weapon.
During the preliminary, Deputy District Attorney Mark Ott called two Tracy police officers and a former West Valley Mall security guard to testify, but the strongest testimony came from 19-year-old Byron Thomas, who appeared in custody wearing jail-issued clothing.
Thomas testified that he saw Hotel shoot at his friend Jesus Herrera and him as they walked out of the eastern entrance of the mall at 3200 Naglee Road.
“I saw a gun in his (Hotel’s) hand, behind the bushes,” Thomas said. “He was firing the gun.”
Thomas said he went to the mall that night with his toddler daughter and Herrera after dropping off his girlfriend at a hair salon. He said he and Herrera went there to kill time and encountered Hotel in a shoe store.
Thomas said that he knew Hotel from an altercation a couple of years earlier and that Herrera had confronted Hotel inside the store.
“I walked right past him (Hotel), and Jesus called Lorenzo a bitch,” Thomas said. “Jesus continued until I told him to stop. Lorenzo didn’t say anything. He paid for what he had and left.”
When Herrera, Thomas and the child went out of the mall entrance a few minutes later, Thomas heard gunshots, he said. He said Hotel was shooting at them from the parking lot. He said Herrera ducked and he ran back into the mall with his daughter.
After the shooting, Thomas testified that he and Herrera went back into the mall with the child to get Herrera a new shirt to wear. He said Herrera bought a shirt at Foot Locker, and together they walked back out the eastern entrance of the mall to Thomas’ car. He said they weren’t injured in the shooting.
When it came time for the defense to question Thomas, Hotel’s attorney, James Giller, tried to discredit him.
Giller said that Thomas was providing testimony only because he had cut a deal with the district attorney’s office for an alleged conspiracy to commit carjacking case Thomas was facing from mid-February.
Thomas told Giller he had no idea if his testimony would affect his carjacking case by reducing any possible jail time.
In addition to Thomas, former mall security guard Mike Pereira testified that he, too, saw Hotel outside the mall immediately after the gunshots.
Pereira said he was on foot patrol outside the eastern entrance when he heard what sounded like four or five gunshots coming from the bushes in the parking lot. He said he saw a man pop out of the bushes. When asked if the man was in the courtroom, Pereira identified Hotel.
“He glanced at me and started running from me,” Pereira said. “He ran east in the parking lot towards Corral Hollow (Road).”
During his pursuit, Pereira said he called for backup and two more guards arrived. He said they blocked Hotel from running out of the lot but then lost him a couple of minutes later when Hotel ducked behind some parked cars.
“You were face to face (with Hotel)?” Giller asked, and Pereira said, “Briefly,” and from 10 feet away.
During closing arguments after a few hours of witness testimony, Ott contended that Hotel was responsible for shooting at the Tracy mall with three people in the “kill zone” of his gunfire.
Giller argued that the prosecution presented no motive for the shooting.
“There was no specific intent to kill Herrera or Thomas,” Giller said. “Thomas is not a credible witness. He got himself a sweetheart deal. There’s not sufficient evidence to hold him (Hotel) to answer for attempted murder.”
Northup ruled there was enough evidence for the charges and ordered Hotel to appear in Stockton court at 8:30 a.m. July 16 in Department 35 for arraignment.
•Contact Denise Ellen Rizzo at firstname.lastname@example.org or 830-4225.