OCEANSIDE — A teenager shot by his neighbor during a mistaken gang hit shed light on the attack April 5 during the early stages of an attempted murder trial being held in a Vista courtroom.
Listening to his iPod and riding his Razor scooter as his friends walked beside him, Dareius Berry recognized Martin Englebrecht immediately as he and several other men stepped out of a black SUV nearly three years ago and opened fire on the group in the 500 block of Fredricks Avenue in Oceanside.
Berry, 19, testified it was after 9 p.m. when he and his friends got caught in a hailstorm of gunfire. As he ran, he was shot in his shin and thigh. “I was trying to run to safety,” he said.
Moments later, Berry, who grew up in Oceanside, said Englebrecht straddled him and then pistol-whipped him. As Berry struggled with the defendant, the teenager said he screamed out “You’re my neighbor!” However, he said Englebrecht just stepped back, cocked his semi-automatic pistol and pointed it at his head.
Facing death, Berry testified he reached up to block the gun away just as it went off. The bullet went through his hand, he said. Two of his friends also received nonlife-threatening gunshot wounds from the attack, according to authorities.
Englebrecht, who fled the scene, was arrested after overdosing on heroin at a party a few months after the shooting. He is the only person charged in the case.
Prosecutors have charged Englebrecht, 33, with three counts of attempted murder relating to the shooting of the teenagers as well as a one count of trying to dissuade Berry from testifying at the preliminary hearing. In addition, gang, weapons and great bodily injury allegations are attached to the charges, which carry a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Currently, Englebrecht has two strikes on his criminal records in connection with a 2005 attempted murder and robbery conviction.
During his testimony, Berry also laid out Englebrecht’s potential motive for the alleged attack.
Hours before the shooting, Berry said he was returning home from the video store when he encountered one of his neighbors, who was affiliated with a predominately black Oceanside gang, preparing to barbecue at Fireside Park directly across the street from his and Englebrecht’s duplex on Parkside Drive.
Berry testified a single wall separated his family from Englebrecht’s, whose daughters had walked to school with his little sister.
After helping his neighbor with carrying some supplies to the park, Berry testified he hung out at the party. While not a gang member himself, Berry said he had friends from many of the different Oceanside gangs because they all went to school together.
Around dusk, Berry said Englebrecht drove by the park and asked one of the partygoers for marijuana. However, the transaction soon went south after the dealer found out Englebrecht was affiliated with a rival Hispanic gang.
A nonparticipant in the skirmish, Berry said gang members swarmed Englebrecht’s car and a melee ensued for more than two minutes at which time the defendant was beat while he sat in his car.
The trial is expected to run through April.