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New Details Disclosed in Willis-Starbuck Shooting By MATTHEW ARTZ

Friday October 07, 2005

Christopher Hollis, 22, fired the shot that killed his friend and former Berkeley High School classmate Meleia Willis-Starbuck, his attorney acknowledged Wednesday. 

Oakland Attorney John Burris insisted the shooting did not constitute murder because Willis-Starbuck called Hollis several times “in a frantic manner” ordering him to the scene and giving the impression that she was in grave danger. 

“She was saying to him ‘if you’re my brother you will come here now,’” Burris told reporters. “She certainly said, ‘Bring the heat.’”  

In separate hearings Wednesday, co-defendents Hollis and Christopher Wilson, accused of driving Hollis to the scene of the shooting, pleaded not guilty to murdering Willis-Starbuck. 

Both men are due to return to court Oct. 14 to set dates for preliminary hearings. Wilson, 20, is free on bail. Hollis, who was arrested last month by Fresno police after more than two months on the run, is being held in Santa Rita prison. 

According to Burris, Willis-Starbuck, who would have been a junior at Dartmouth College this year, called Hollis on his cell phone to come to her defense the night of July 17 after she and a group of female friends got into an argument with a group that included Cal football players outside her apartment on College Avenue. 

Hollis arrived and fired several shots into the crowd, striking Willis-Starbuck and grazing the wrist of Cal Safety Gary Doxy, Burris said. Hollis, who, at the corner of College Avenue and Dwight Way, was half a block away from the crowd, intended to shoot high in the air to scare off the football players, Burris said. 

“He was not trying to hit anyone,” he said. 

Burris wants to proceed quickly with the case and go to trial by early spring. He is seeking a bail bond for Hollis. 

Based on his review of police records, Burris said the football players initially asked the girls to go to a dorm party across the street. The argument escalated, he added, when Cal wide receiver David Gray compared one of Willis-Starbuck’s friends to Chewbacca, a big, hairy Star Wars character. 

“From there it gets kind of nasty,” Burris said. “One person in particular was using profanity and the b-word. It became pretty intense.” 

Elizabeth Grossman, attorney for Wilson, accused the Cal football team and athletic department of not cooperating with investigators in order to protect the image of the program. 

“They’ve kept quiet about facts they know,” she said. “It’s my belief that everyone over there at Cal—meaning the coaches, the press people and people on the football team— certainly know who was present and I think they should come forward and express what they know.” 

Grossman said that Wilson did not know that Hollis was carrying a gun. 

Burris, who said he had listened to witness statements from five players, said the testimony hadn’t fully shed light on why Willis-Starbuck believed she was in physical danger, but he questioned whether members of the athletic department could help. 

“I don’t know if the coaches could make them less cagey and more forthcoming,” he said.