FRESNO, Calif. — Kori Ali Muhammad logged onto the free Wi-Fi at a California Starbucks, saw that police were seeking him for the shooting death of a motel manager and made a decision -- to “kill as many white men” as he could before he was caught.
Jurors in Muhammad’s capital murder trial heard Muhammad’s justification in his own words last week as prosecutors in a Fresno County courtroom played his recorded confession in the April 2017 shootings that killed four people. The Fresno Bee reported that Muhammad, 42, who faces the death penalty if convicted, told police he was angry about the treatment of black people in the U.S.
Muhammad is accused of the April 13, 2017, killing of Carl Williams III, a 25-year-old security guard at a Motel 6 in Fresno. Five days later, after learning from the news that he was a suspect in Williams’ death, he targeted a Pacific Gas & Electric truck in which Zackary David Randalls was a passenger.
“I didn’t want to do nothing to law enforcement, so I just found some white men to kill,” Muhammad said, according to ABC30 in Fresno.
Muhammad is accused of gunning down Randalls, 34, of Clovis, and Mark James Gassett, 37, and David Martin Jackson, 58, both of Fresno.
In the nearly three years since the killings, Muhammad’s mental competency became an issue. His defense attorneys allege he suffers from delusions, schizophrenia and psychosis, the Bee reported.
Two court-appointed psychiatrists at one point found Muhammad incompetent to stand trial. A judge ruled in January 2018 that he was competent to move forward with the proceedings.
In his confession, Muhammad told detectives he targeted the PG&E truck because his father worked for the utility company before he became addicted to crack cocaine. The Bee reported that Muhammad blamed the U.S. government for the spread of crack cocaine, and that seeing the utility truck triggered his anger.
“When I walked up to the (PG&E) truck, I saw a Mexican driver and a white guy,” Muhammad said in the confession, according to ABC30. “I didn’t want to target the driver because he was Mexican, so I shot the white dude.”
Muhammad fired four bullets into the truck, shattering the windshield and mortally wounding Randalls. The Los Angeles Times reported that Randalls, who had begun working in PG&E’s call center a month before his death, was on a ride-along with a technician when he was killed.
That technician, Juan “Ray” Cavazos, testified earlier this month that he grew suspicious when Muhammad walked slowly past the truck in which he and Randalls sat. He told the jury the look on Muhammad’s face unnerved him.
“It was a cold, cold, dark look,” Cavazos testified, according to the Bee.
Cavazos said as Muhammad stood near the driver’s side window, he nodded to acknowledge the stranger. Muhammad didn’t respond.
“As he was walking past my left fender, he stopped and looked into the truck again,” Cavazos testified. “And as he proceeds to walk in front of the truck I told Mr. Randalls, ‘Something is not right here.’”
Cavazos said he put the truck in gear to drive away as Muhammad lifted his jacket and pulled a revolver from his waistband.
“He is pointing the gun into the vehicle and he starts firing, three to four times at Mr. Randalls,” Cavazos said, according to the Bee. “All I could hear was the glass shattering as I am trying to get out of there, but it was just going on, one shot after another.”
Cavazos testified that he sped away as the shooting continued. He called 911 and drove Randalls to the nearest police station.
“Then I hear him (Randalls) say, ‘Ray, I’ve been shot,’ as I try and get him to safety as fast as I can,” Cavazos said.
After shooting Randalls, Muhammad is accused of walking away from that scene and firing his handgun at a number of other men, all white.
Gassett and Jackson were killed in the gunfire, authorities said. Gassett, who had been job-seeking that day, was walking home with groceries he’d obtained at the Catholic Charities food bank when he was gunned down, the Times reported.
The Bee reported in 2017 that the first shot struck Gassett in the chest. Muhammad then stood over the wounded man and shot him twice more, killing him.
Jackson was sitting on a bus stop bench with two other men when Muhammad approached. According to the Bee, Muhammad told investigators he targeted Jackson because he looked “older and heavier” than the other two.
Mark Greer, who was with Jackson, told the Times that Jackson tried to reason with Muhammad.
Muhammad chased after Jackson during the shooting and laughed when the man tripped over a curb in the Catholic Charities parking lot, Greer told the newspaper.
Muhammad, who fired a total of 17 gunshots that day, was arrested near the scene of the shootings.
ABC30 reported that he knew the reason for his arrest immediately.
“Because I killed those people and the security guard,” Muhammad said, according to the news station.
Muhammad told Fresno detectives he was visiting a female friend at the Motel 6 on April 13 when he claimed Williams, an unarmed security guard, disrespected him. According to the Bee, the motel manager had asked Muhammad to go to the office, sign in as a visitor and pay a small fee.
The employee, Roman Escamilla, testified on March 2, the first day of Muhammad’s trial, that the request was company policy. He said Muhammad and his female friend argued with him about it.
“Remember, this is my ‘hood,” Escamilla testified that Muhammad told him.
When Muhammad stared him down, Escamilla said he felt threatened, so he kicked the pair out.
“I’ll never forget that look,” Escamilla said.
Muhammad and the woman also argued with Williams and another security guard, who Williams, a security supervisor, was at the motel to assist.
Video surveillance footage shown in court captured Williams’ slaying in full. According to the Bee, the victim’s family members wept as jurors watched Muhammad approach Williams, who was arguing with the female motel guest, from behind.
Muhammad walked past Williams’ left shoulder before reaching into his waistband for a .357 revolver, the Bee said. He spun around toward Williams and shot him multiple times.
Muhammad fled and hid on the roof of a nearby 7-Eleven, watching until police finished at the crime scene, the Bee reported in 2017. He climbed down the next morning and hid near the dumpster at a nearby school.
Muhammad spent the next few days hiding in various locations in Fresno and practicing Voodoo rituals, he told police. Then-Fresno police Chief Jerry Dyer told reporters Muhammad identified as Muslim but worshiped seven gods.
The shooting suspect cut his hair to help disguise himself and remained in hiding until April 18, when he went to Fresno’s Tower District.
It was there that he used the Starbucks Wi-Fi to look at the news and discovered he had been identified as the suspect in Williams’ killing.
“He told our detectives last night, he was not going to go down for shooting a security guard for disrespecting him, but was going to kill as many white males as possible,” Dyer said in a news conference. “He said he did not like white men, white people were responsible for keeping blacks down. They needed to have their own land with their own laws.”
Investigators quickly determined that the mass shooting was not an act of terrorism, the chief said.
“He’s not a terrorist, he is a racist filled with hate,” Dyer said, according to the Bee. “He set out to kill as many as he could.”
Muhammad was charged with eight felony counts in the mass shooting, including three counts of murder. According to the Fresno County District Attorney’s Office, the murder counts included two special circumstances: Muhammad committed multiple murders and he targeted the victims because of their race.
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