Suspects in Calif. Halloween mass shooting released from jail

Prosecutors say they ''needed more information' in order to charge the five men

Alex Wigglesworth
Los Angeles Times

ORINDA, Calif. — Four men arrested in connection with a deadly shooting at a Halloween party in Orinda, Calif., have been released from custody without being charged, while a fifth man remains jailed on an unrelated offense.

Three of the men — Shamron Joshua Mitchell, 30, of Antioch; Jaquez Deshawn Sweeney and Jason D. Iles, both 20 and of Marin City — had been arrested on suspicion of murder and conspiracy. The fourth, Devin Isiah Williamson, 21, of Vallejo, who authorities described as the promoter of the event, had been arrested on suspicion of acting as an accessory.

All four were released from jail Monday.

The fifth man, Lebraun Tyree Wallace, 28, of San Mateo, who was initially arrested on suspicion of murder and conspiracy, remains jailed on a probation violation, according to investigators. He has not been charged in connection with the shooting.

“We needed more information,” said Scott Alonso, spokesman for the Contra Costa County district attorney’s office. “We have a high burden of proof we need to meet in order to file criminal charges against anyone. We have to prove beyond reasonable doubt to a jury that they can reach a unanimous verdict of guilt against the suspect, and if we don’t feel that we can meet that burden at the time of filing, then we will not proceed.”

Authorities arrested the five men last week, the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release. Under the law, prosecutors had until Monday to file charges, Alonso said.

“The sheriff’s office came into our office to review the case on Monday, and we had a team of experienced prosecutors review it, meet with them for many hours and discuss the evidence and the state of the case,” he said. “And at that time, we were not able to make a filing decision.”

Alonso said that charges can still be filed later as new evidence emerges, and called for anyone who witnessed the shooting to contact investigators.

“We stand by our investigation and the arrests were made pursuant to a judge’s order,” the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement. “Although the district attorney may want more investigation done, the persons arrested and responsible for these crimes will ultimately be held to account. The entire investigation is ongoing as is common in these types of complex cases.”

Five people died in the shooting, which took place during a party at an Airbnb rental on Halloween night. According to police, more than 100 people from around the Bay Area had descended on the home in the East Bay suburb. The gathering had been widely advertised on social media, authorities said. Officers responding to a noise complaint at the residence arrived to find a “highly chaotic scene” with multiple gunshot victims and revelers fleeing.

Three victims were pronounced dead at the scene, and another died at the hospital that night. They were identified as Tiyon Farley, 22, of Antioch; Omar Taylor, 24, of Pittsburg; Ramon Hill Jr., 23, of San Francisco and Oakland; and Javin County, a 29-year-old from Sausalito and Richmond.

A fifth victim, 19-year-old Oshiana Tompkins, was pronounced dead at a hospital the next day, according to a police statement.

Authorities did not disclose a possible motive for the violence, but in a statement announcing the suspects’ arrests, Contra Costa Sheriff David Livingston said that two of the victims who died were also armed, “which may have played a role in this tragedy.”

The shooting prompted Airbnb to announce that it would ban “party houses” from its platform by taking such steps as expanding screening for reservations deemed “high-risk” and creating a rapid response team to address issues related to such gatherings.

On Tuesday, the Orinda City Council adopted an interim ordinance imposing a temporary ban on short-term rentals in the city unless the host lives on the property and is present when guests are staying there. The ban will be in place for at least 45 days while officials study how to establish more permanent regulations for short-term rentals.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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