A defense attorney in a murder trial on Thursday questioned a detective about discrepancies in a witness' story of a 2009 north Modesto shooting in which two men were killed in what investigators believe was a gang-related attack.
Modesto police Detective Mike Hicks said witness William Harris has told investigators and the jury that Christopher Diaz and Mark Ochoa were not armed when they were gunned down shortly after midnight Aug. 31, 2009.
The detective, however, has testified that Ochoa was found with a gun at the crime scene. He also said he has told Harris that Ochoa was found with a gun, but the key prosecution witness in the murder case maintains the two men did not have a gun that night.
Hicks was cross-examined by defense attorney Frank Carson, whose questions were an effort to scrutinize Harris' credibility in front of the jury.
Modestans Eric Arguello, 21, and Victor Zapien, 24, and Ceres residents David Ferrel, 32, and Kelly Valle, 28, are on trial, accused of murder and attempted murder in connection with the 2009 shooting. They also have been charged with attempted murder of a police officer and participating in a criminal street gang.
During his investigation, Hicks questioned Harris about his claim that Diaz and Ochoa were not armed, telling Harris that the defendants would claim the shooting was self-defense and that he needed to be sure about what he saw.
The detective testified that he questioned Harris "to elicit a truthful response, regardless of what his answer would be."
Harris has testified that Arguello and Valle were among four men who confronted them outside Diaz's home. He has said Valle and two masked men brandished guns, and Arguello was not armed.
Thursday, Hicks testified that Harris initially told investigators he saw five men walking south toward Diaz's home in the 2600 block of Maxine Drive, north of Floyd Avenue and west of Coffee Road.
Harris has testified that he escaped right after he saw Valle fire the first shot at Ochoa's chest. He said he heard multiple shots fired as he ran away.
Hicks said Harris later mistakenly identified Valle when pointing to a picture of Ferrel in a photo lineup. The detective also testified that he corrected Harris and pointed to photos of Ferrel and Zapien, telling Harris that they were the two others carrying guns that night.
Prosecutors have said Harris fears for his safety after cooperating with authorities and has been accepted into the California Witness Relocation and Assistance Program in exchange for his testimony.
Through the state program, the district attorney's office has obtained $4,300 for Harris to cover the expenses of moving away from Modesto.
Testimony in the trial is expected to continue today in Stanislaus County Superior Court.
Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2394.