OCEANSIDE — A teenager was mistakenly gunned down by his neighbor during a gang retaliatory attack nearly three years ago, a prosecutor said April 5 during her opening arguments in the attempted murder trial.
Disgruntled and disrespected, Deputy District Attorney Terri Perez told jurors reputed gang member Martin Englebrecht went looking for redemption on the evening of April 15, 2007, after he was beaten earlier that day by members of a predominately black gang at Fireside Park in Oceanside while sitting in his car.
Dareius Berry, 19, was at the park that day; however, according to Perez, he wasn’t involved in the melee nor was he a documented gang member. Berry, like Englebrecht, lived across the street from Fireside Park — the two were neighbors in the same duplex on Parkside Drive, the prosecutor said.
“A single wall separated the defendant from Berry’s family,” Perez said.
A few hours after the fight, Englebrecht, 33, and several other Hispanic gang members came across Berry and his friends, who were all black, walking through a neighborhood in the 500 block of Fredricks Avenue, less than a mile from Fireside Park, Perez said. After parking their SUV near the teenagers, the defendant and a few other men got out and began shooting at the group wounding Berry and two of his friends, she said.
After being shot in the shin and thigh, Berry collapsed and Englebrecht pounced on him and then aimed his handgun point-blank at Berry’s head, the prosecutor said. With the gun in his face, Perez said the teenager screamed out “You’re my neighbor!” Berry then grasped at the gun and that’s when it went off sending a bullet through the teenager’s hand.
The other victims also received nonlife-threatening gunshot wounds, the prosecutor told the jury panel.
Englebrecht is charged with three counts of attempted murder and a single count of attempting to dissuade a witness, all felonies. Additionally, he faces gang, weapons and great bodily injury allegations. He faces life in prison if convicted.
Despite prosecutors acknowledging that Englebrecht was not a lone shooter, he is the only person charged in the case.
Defense attorney James Hutchens told jurors he didn’t believe the placement of the victim’s gunshot wounds warranted the attempted murder charges. Also, Hutchens said he believed the evidence would point toward his client not even being at the scene, despite Berry’s identification.
However, Perez said Englebrecht admitted the crime to several people, including his cousin and a cellmate in Vista jail, who will both be called to testify during the trial. She added that Englebrecht asked the cellmate to pass a note from jail asking his family to try to dissuade Berry from testifying at the preliminary hearing.
Englebrecht’s criminal record dates back to 1993, when he was convicted as a juvenile for armed robbery. Two years later, as an adult, Englebrecht was convicted of attempted murder and another robbery, which he received strikes for. Englebrecht’s last prison stint was for a 2003 drug possession conviction.
Police arrested Englebrecht after he overdosed on heroin several months after the shooting while at a party in Oceanside.
The trial is expected to run four to six weeks.