A man who was with 17-year-old Bidal Taito the night he was killed was arraigned Monday.
Brandon Lippincott, 18, appeared by video for his arraignment at Robert M. Falasco Justice Center in Los Banos, where he pleaded not guilty.
Lippincott is charged with attempted first-degree robbery, conspiracy to commit a crime and first-degree burglary with an enhancement alleging he committed the crime while the occupant was present.
Prosecutors allege Lippincott, Taito and a 15-year-old boy were attempting to burglarize a residence on July 20 on West K Street in Los Banos when the homeowner fatally shot Taito.
The Merced County District Attorney’s Office and law enforcement have not released the name of the shooter, saying he was the intended target of an attempted burglary.
According to prosecutors, a Los Banos police detective determined the trio met at Taito’s residence earlier that day and planned the burglary of the West K Street home.
Prosecutors say Lippincott brought a loaded .22-caliber, semi-automatic pistol to the meeting. The detective said Lippincott and Taito donned one glove each to handle the pistol.
The three suspects met later that evening and went to the West K Street residence, authorities said. The resident arrived home moments before the suspects approached the house.
The resident, who’s been identified only as a relative of a former Los Banos police employee, later told police he was startled by banging on the outside of his house. When he looked toward the front door from his bedroom, he saw someone trying to enter.
He grabbed his cellphone and his .40-caliber handgun and called 911.
Prosecutors say Lippincott and Taito forced their way into the home, saw the resident was home and turned to leave.
The resident fired three bullets through the door. Taito was struck once in the lower right side of his back. Prosecutors said Taito was on the front stoop of the home when he was hit.
He fled into the adjacent alley, dropping his gloves and a cellphone, according to the District Attorney’s Office. The .22-caliber pistol was found on the ground a short distance away. Taito collapsed in the alley and died at a Modesto hospital shortly after 1 a.m.
The District Attorney’s Office considered pressing charges against Taito’s shooter but said the evidence would likely not result in a conviction.
Taito’s loved ones have staged several protests in the weeks since the teen’s death.
Lippincott faces a maximum sentence of about nine years. He’s being held at Merced County Jail in lieu of $200,000 bail.
His preliminary hearing is set for 9:30 a.m. on Sept. 18.
Sun-Star staff writer Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or email@example.com.