A Manila boy shot another teen three times in the back while he was running away. But do the circumstances show he was acting with criminal sophistication?
That is one of the factors Judge Gregory Elvine-Kreis must consider when deciding to either keep 16-year-old Logan Rain Brewer Hearst in Juvenile Court, where he faces maximum confinement of nine years; or transfer him to the adult system, where a murder charge can mean life in prison.
Brewer Hearst, an admitted dealer of a large and varied amount of drugs, shot and killed 18-year-old Taevonne Latimer and wounded his cousin Daylyn Prudhomme during a failed cocaine deal in Arcata on May 26. Latimer and Prudhomme were with “J,” a minor who had arranged to buy a large amount of drugs from Brewer Hearst.
The deal went awry when J began punching Brewer Hearst in the face. Prudhomme then pushed Brewer Hearst to the ground. He pulled a gun and began firing as the three sprinted back to their car.
According to Prudhomme, who testified Tuesday, on the drive to Arcata J said he was going to “jug” the dealer, meaning steal the drugs.
On Wednesday, Arcata police Detective Victoria Johnson testified she believed Brewer Hearst acted with criminal sophistication by bringing a loaded firearm to a drug deal.
“Did he exhibit a higher level of sophistication than most 16-year-olds?” Deputy District Attorney Jessica Watson asked the detective.
“Yes,” Johnson said, pointing out that Brewer Hearst had chosen the location for the deal (a bus stop in Arcata) because “he didn’t want them to come to his location.”
“He brought a firearm to a drug deal, showing he knows it’s potentially dangerous and he may need to use it.”
Brewer Hearst’s weapon of choice was a revolver, which does not expel shell casings when fired. Casings would be collected as evidence.
“He ran from the scene and left the firearm at an unknown location,” the detective testified. Brewer Hearst, who turned himself in the day after the shooting, told police he tossed the gun and thought he heard a splash, as though it landed in water. The gun was never found.
Instead of going home to his mother’s house in Manila, Brewer Hearst went to the place where he had been staying: a Heather Lane apartment occupied by Joshua Spaulding, an often-arrested man who was recently shot in the leg by his upstairs neighbor.
Another resident of the apartment was Steven Noble, who now resides at Humboldt County Correctional Facility and has been corresponding with Brewer Hearst at Juvenile Hall. In one letter to Noble, Brewer Hearst said if he was out of custody he would be “stacking money.”
Watson maintains Brewer Hearst has “entrenched himself in this criminal underworld going on in Arcata.”
Because of that, the prosecutor says, it may be difficult if not impossible for Brewer Hearst to be rehabilitated. Whether he is a candidate for rehabilitation is another factor the judge must consider.
Defense attorney David Nims asked Johnson whether a revolver is a less-deadly weapon than a semiautomatic firearm.
“It’s fairly deadly as it killed someone,” she said.
Nims also questioned whether fleeing the scene was a sign of criminal sophistication.
Dr. Andrew Renouf, the defense-hired psychiatrist who evaluated Brewer Hearst, reached the opinion that the teen should be kept in Juvenile Court. The Probation Department also has recommended he be tried as a minor.
Renouf acknowledged he has never recommended a teen be transferred to adult court because he’s never believed it was appropriate.
“There is substantial research that indicates adolescents are different than adults in their cognitive abilities,” the doctor said. Asked if there was anyone who should be transferred, he said possibly older adolescents with a long criminal history.
Watson asked whether bringing a loaded gun to a drug deal shows criminal sophistication.
“Not as an isolated factor,” Renouf said, adding there would have to be some premeditation or the intent to use the gun.
“So if Logan told you he brought the firearm because he didn’t feel safe, doesn’t that show he intended to use it if he needed to?”
Watson then asked about Brewer Hearst disposing of the gun.
“I think it would be a natural impulse that most people would have,” Renouf said.
Although Brewer Hearst had been a hard-core drug dealer since he was 13 or 14, he was never caught and therefore has no criminal history. His only offense was an incident of vandalism, and the case was considered too minor to be referred to the district attorney for charging.
While in Juvenile Hall Brewer Hearst has been well-behaved, senior Probation Officer Barbara Boeger testified. The one exception was when he enlisted the help of two other teens to attack another detainee. That detainee happened to be J, the boy who arranged the deal that ended in death.
A large number of Latimer and Prudhomme’s friends and family members have been in court each day. Brewer Hearst’s mother is also there.
The hearing will not resume again until Tuesday afternoon.
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