Balbir Boyal was just trying to defend himself when a masked gunman entered his east Modesto store nearly 11 years ago.
His business was the last in a series of convenience store robberies that had terrorized the community for two months as some of the store clerks were shot even after complying with thieves and handing over the cash.
“He stayed behind the counter and tried to reach for a baseball bat, but he never had a chance,” said Deputy District Attorney Tanja Titre.
Boyal then was shot several times by the robber who tried to steal cash from his store, BK Liquors at 150 Riverside Drive in east Modesto. Titre told a jury Tuesday that Edward Deandre Mitchell killed Boyal. The prosecutor said evidence and witness statements point to Mitchell’s guilt, including testimony from his getaway driver.
He stayed behind the counter and tried to reach for a baseball bat, but he never had a chance.
Deputy District Attorney Tanja Titre
David Headley, Micthell’s attorney, told the jurors that the prosecution’s “star witness,” Laron Tavon Davis, lied to authorities to get his plea deal and avoid identifying a member of a notorious Oakland street gang as the man responsible for the series of violent robberies.
The defense attorney said this Oakland gang member and heroin addict, James Williams, was arrested June 13, 2006 after robbing a store on May 5, 2016 on Hatch Road in south Modesto. Headley said it was Williams who first told investigators Mitchell was responsible for the violent series of robberies.
Headley said Tuesday that the rest of the prosecution’s evidence is weak and doesn’t point to his client.
“They wouldn’t use Laron Davis if they didn’t have to,” Headley said about the prosecution.
Mitchell’s two-month trial began Tuesday morning with opening statements from the attorneys. Mitchell, 30, is accused of murder in Boyal’s death, along with five counts of robbery and one count of attempted robbery.
That’s why Laron Davis has to testify, because the rest of it doesn’t add up.
Defense Attorney David Headley
The defense attorney told the jurors they will have to decide whether to believe Davis. The prosecutor said Davis May have lied about his involvement in another crime.
In 2009, Davis agreed to a plea deal in exchange for his testimony against Mitchell. Davis was convicted of voluntary manslaughter, five counts of robbery and one count of attempted robbery. He was sentenced to 13 years in prison, and Headley says Davis is expected to be released in early August.
In a February 2010 preliminary hearing, Davis said he and Mitchell were using ecstasy and were drunk when they decided to begin their spree in April 2006. Davis testified he was the getaway driver in the robberies.
Victims in some of the robberies told investigators that robber had a silver semi-automatic handgun. Titre said authorities searched Mitchell’s home in the 1600 block of Sylvan Avenue and found a black backpack on the roof with a silver-automatic handgun that matched expended shell casings found in two of the first three robberies.
Mitchell later told investigators the silver handgun belonged to him, but he denied involvement in the robberies. The defense attorney said that the silver handgun was passed around through several members of Mitchell’s and Davis’ inner circle of friends, who used to call themselves “Money Over B------.”
Headley said Davis typically carried around the silver handgun, and Mitchell only had it for a few hours. He told the jury that DNA tests on the silver handgun linked the weapon to five people but not Mitchell.
At the Sylvan home, investigators also found a black 9mm handgun with a brown handle. The gun was found in a safe inside the trunk of a vehicle parked in the garage. The prosecutor said the black handgun matched expended shell casings in a May 31, 2006 robbery and the robbery that killed Boyal several days later.
Modesto convenience store robberies in 2006. One clerk was shot and killed and three others were injured in a two-month spree.
▪ APRIL 20: Store clerk shot in back after giving cash to gunman at the am-pm minimarket at Standiford Avenue and Prescott Road.
▪ APRIL 20: Store clerk gave cash in brown paper bag to gunman at the Stop ‘N Save on Sylvan Avenue and Oakdale Road. Gunman orders clerk and delivery man face down on the ground, they’re clicking sound as the gun apparently malfunctioned. Gunman leaves; no one is hurt.
▪ APRIL 22: Store clerk gave cash to gunman during robbery at the Stop ‘N Save on Coffee Road. The clerk is show as he was turning away.
▪ MAY 31: A clerk is shot but no money is taken during an attempted robbery at the Sunset Market on Beverly Drive.
▪ JUNE 5: Father of store owner and his friend ordered to the ground. Gunman got away with several hundred dollars in cash.
▪ JUNE 7: Balbir Boyal, owner of BK’s Liquor, Food & Gas on Riverside Drive, is shot and killed during an attempted robbery.
▪ JUNE 15: Edward Deandre Mitchell of Modesto and Laron Tavon Davis, of Ceres are arrested and charged in the crimes.