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Monday, January 21 , 2019, 10:40 pm | Partly Cloudy 52º


Preliminary Hearing Begins for Former Hancock College Basketball Players Charged with Murder

Ali Mohammed and Lavell White are accused in the fatal shooting of a 23-year-old man in Santa Maria during an alleged drug deal

Former Allan Hancock College basketball player Ali Mohammed sits next to his defense attorney, Lori Pedego, in court on Tuesday. Mohammed is one of two former players charged with a fatal shooting late last year.
Former Allan Hancock College basketball player Ali Mohammed sits next to his defense attorney, Lori Pedego, in court on Tuesday. Mohammed is one of two former players charged with a fatal shooting late last year. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

The preliminary hearing for two former Allan Hancock College basketball players charged with shooting a man late last year during an alleged drug deal began Tuesday in Santa Barbara County Superior Court.

Lavell White and Ali Mohammed are charged with the fatal shooting of Terence Richardson, 23, of Santa Maria late at night on Dec. 30, 2014, in a car on a street between the college campus and apartment buildings.

Testimony on Tuesday morning from Santa Maria police officers about the shooting in a vehicle near Bradley Road and Jones Street described it as happening during an alleged drug deal that ended up being an attempted robbery-turned-homicide. 

Ryan DePalma, a longtime friend of Richardson, reportedly told police he drove to the neighborhood, with Richardson in the passenger seat, to sell marijuana after receiving a call from a customer in the 700 block of South Bradley Road.

“He said he is familiar with that apartment because he has sold marijuana to several individuals that live there,” Detective Michael Huffman said of DePalma, who also was known as Pato.

In those prior instances, DePalma told police, he would park near the apartment complex and someone would show up to make the purchase.

However, on Dec. 30, a man climbed into the rear seat of the Honda Civic, police said under questioning from Deputy District Attorney Tim Covello.

“That individual reached forward, grabbed the car keys out of the ignition and then he said, ‘Give me everything you got,'" Huffman said, adding the driver reported seeing the man in the rear seat brandish a handgun.

The driver told police he saw another male at the driver’s door with a rifle in his hands.

“He said it was an assault-type rifle,” Huffman said.

Hancock bball
Former Allan Hancock College basketball player Lavell White sits in court Tuesday for a preliminary hearing. White and another former player, Ali Mohammed, are charged in a fatal shooting late last year. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

The driver reached down, found the keys and tried to speed away, but shots were fired.

DePalma initially described the men as being black, tall, thin and athletes based on their stature. However, under questioning from defense attorney Addison Steele, who represents White, the officer said the driver initially gave a different description of the suspects.

With Richardson critically wounded, the driver raced to Marian Regional Medical Center, where the victim died. 

Detective Shawn Fuggs, who led the homicide investigation, testified about interviewing former Hancock football player Gentry Oden, who had called DePalma seeking marijuana prices.

Oden told police he knew the two defendants from college as students, as athletes and as residents of Apt. 15, where Oden had stayed for 30 days before the homicide. 

The apartment apparently housed multiple people in addition to the official residents. Police talked to the manager and obtained the names of four residents, none of whom included Oden nor the defendants.

The defendants and Oden had become closer as they allegedly smoked marijuana and committed robberies of marijuana dealers and residential burglaries in the weeks before the fatal shooting, Fuggs said. 

In one burglary at an apartment at Montiavo at Bradley Square, they stole a Macbook Pro laptop, a Mac desktop and a 9mm firearm. 

Another residential burglary occurred on East Cypress Street and took both defendants to kick in the front door. Oden told police the burglary was “a waste of time” because the elderly resident had nothing worth stealing, Fuggs said.

The robbery of a marijuana dealer occurred in an alleyway near their apartment complex while roommates watched from a bedroom window. In that incident, White allegedly was armed with an imitation AK-47 while Mohammed had a handgun, Fuggs said. 

Stolen marijuana ended up being sold at a later party, the police officer said. 

Detective Michael Parker said one marijuana dealer, who had been the victim of robbers, told police the suspects came from another apartment, but later claimed they came from Apt. 15.

Parker testified about interviewing nurses who treated Richardson, and learning they asked about who did the shooting.

“The victim replied they shot him,” Parker said. 

Richardson arrived at the hospital in a vehicle and had to be carried into the facility. 

During the process, hospital staff recalled smelling marijuana and seeing a baggie in the vehicle, Parker said. 

Mohammed is represented by Deputy Public Defender Lori Pedego.

The hearing is scheduled to continue Wednesday afternoon in Santa Maria before Judge Rogelio Flores. 

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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