A murder trial opened Thursday in a Santa Rosa courtroom with the playing of a dramatic 911 tape in which the victim's brother appears to identify the shooter's race and vehicle.
Ex-convict Latroy Clinton Sr., 41, of Santa Rosa is charged with murdering Oscar Valencia, 23, also of Santa Rosa, during a late-night confrontation on a southwest neighborhood street.
Valencia's brother, Jaime, witnessed the slaying and reported it to police dispatchers on a cell phone. Prosecutors played a recording of his call, placed moments later, in which he says his brother is "looking dead" and responds to the question, "Who did it?"
"I don't know," said Valencia in a voice choked with emotion. "Some black guy. He was driving up in a white van."
Clinton, who is black, fled in his light-colored van, according to police. He was arrested in Marin County after leading officers on a chase along Highway 101.
A chrome-plated .44 Magnum was found nearby.
Clinton has been in custody since the June 2011 shooting. He's charged with murder, felon in possession of a gun and evading police and faces life in prison if convicted.
In opening statements, Clinton's lawyer, Walter Rubenstein suggested Jaime Valencia was somehow to blame for the shooting. He said the brother had been seen with a similar gun and was pointing a finger at Clinton to mask his own involvement.
"At the end of this trial, reasonable doubt will come from the very people who are accusing Mr. Clinton of this."
The shooting happened outside Clinton's girlfriend's house near the intersection of Cumberland Street and Homestead Lane. The victim and three other men were visiting women who lived next door after returning from a downtown Santa Rosa nightclub, the Chrome Lotus.
At some point, Clinton is alleged to have arrived in a van and started an argument with one of the men, whom witnesses at a preliminary hearing said owed Clinton money.
Oscar Valencia is believed to have tried to intervene.
Neighbors who testified Thursday reported hearing two male voices yelling at each other before there was a short pause and then a single gunshot. They looked outside and saw a body on the street.
Police believe Clinton went into his girlfriend's house to retrieve a gun before shooting Valencia.
One neighbor testified he saw a black man cross the street, walk up to someone else and pull what he thought could be a gun from his waistband. The neighbor said he moved away from the window and left the room when the man extended his arm toward the person's face.
"Right after I closed the door I heard a big pop," testified Benjamin Davidson. "A gunshot."
You can reach Staff Writer Paul Payne at 568-5312 or firstname.lastname@example.org.