Witness of fatal shooting of mother says she feared for her life

OAKLAND (BCN)—A woman testified today that she feared for her life after she talked to Oakland police five days after a gun battle in West Oakland last year that killed a 30-year-old mother of three children.

The woman, a reluctant prosecution witness who asked that her name not be used, said, “I felt scared” when investigators brought her to police headquarters to interview her on March 14, 2015, five days after the fatal shooting of Chyemil Pierce in the 2800 block of Chestnut Street at about 4:45 p.m. on March 9, 2015, when a gun battle broke out after two groups of people argued and fought.

Oakland police said Pierce, who worked as a human resources specialist at Kaiser Permanente, wasn’t involved in the argument but had just picked up two of her children from a charter school in the area and was struck by gunfire as she tried to help them to safety.

Prosecutor Autrey James called the woman to the witness stand at a preliminary hearing in the case because at the time of the shooting she was dating Jerry Harbin, 31, who is one of seven defendants charged with murder in connection with Pierce’s death.

Also charged with murder are Joneria Reed, 38, Julian Ambrose, 18, Alex Davis, 26, Shelton McDaniels, 30, Michael Stills, 22, and Anthony Sims, 21.

In addition, Ambrose and Sims face an attempted murder charge for allegedly shooting at Harbin.

Dijon Ward, 22, Reed’s son and an eighth defendant in the case, is charged with being an accessory after the fact for allegedly hiding the gun that Sims allegedly used.

The woman, who cried at times, confirmed that she told police at the end of her interview on March 14, 2015, that she didn’t want to go back to her apartment in West Oakland because “no one is going to be happy with me because I’m going to be dead, anyway.”

The woman, who said she didn’t see the shooting, also verified that she told police, “You don’t understand. I’m not going to be safe after this.”

But when James asked the woman who she thought would kill her she said, “I don’t know” and declined to name names.

Under cross-examination by Harbin’s attorney, Ted Johnson, the woman said she was afraid because people in her neighborhood knew she had talked to police.

She said, “I actually was threatened on Facebook” and people passed her photograph around on the social media website.

Prosecutors say Harbin, Sims, McDaniels, Davis and Ambrose all opened fire in the shootout that killed Pierce, who was hit by a bullet in the back of her head. Investigators haven’t said who they believe fired the shot that killed her.

Stills isn’t charged with firing a gun during the incident but is accused of being armed with one and prosecutors allege that he’s also legally responsible for the killing.

Ambrose suffered multiple gunshot wounds in the incident and spent more than a month at Highland Hospital in Oakland. He was arrested when he was released from the hospital on April 14, 2015.

Sims was also injured in the shooting.

The woman testified that Harbin told her after the shooting that he was among several people who tried to break up a fight between two women in the 2800 block of Chestnut Street on March 9, 2015, but a woman who had also tried to stop the fight “jumped in his face” and accused him of pushing her and called her son for assistance.

Police have identified Reed as the woman who quarreled with Harbin and called her son, Ward.

The female witness said Harbin told her that several minutes after the argument a group of people drove up to the scene, he heard some people say they were going to shoot him and then the shooting started.

The woman said when she talked to Harbin several hours after the shooting he told her, “They’re trying to kill me.”

The woman said she hid a gun that belonged to Harbin and another man she identified only as “T” in a closet at her apartment.

The woman described her relationship with Harbin as “a short-term fling” and said she had just met him a month before the shooting.

The preliminary hearing for seven of the eight defendants in the case, which will determine if there’s enough evidence for them to be ordered to stand trial, will resume on Thursday morning.

The only defendant not involved in the preliminary hearing is McDaniels.

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Horner ruled on Tuesday that McDaniels should have a separate hearing at a later date due to a potential conflict because Sims’ attorney, William DuBois, previously represented McDaniels in a pimping case in which he was convicted and sentenced to state prison.

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