An 18-year-old Berkeley man pleaded not guilty Friday to a murder charge stemming from the shooting death of another man outside a liquor store 11 days earlier.
Randall Oscar Alston is accused of killing 24-year-old Devin Lee Whitmire of Berkeley in the 2800 block of Sacramento Street at about 7:35 p.m. on March 29.
But Alston's attorney, veteran Oakland defense lawyer James Giller, said after Alston's brief hearing that "his position is that he didn't do it."
Giller said he hasn't yet seen all the evidence in the case but he thinks the accusation that Alston committed the murder "is inconsistent with what his neighbors and other people say about it, which is that he's a very nice kid who is active in his church."
In fact, Alston maintains that he was on his way to church at the time that Whitmire was fatally shot.
Berkeley police, who haven't specified if they think Alston was the person who shot and killed Whitmire, say they believe there are additional suspects in the case and there is a $17,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of all the suspects in the case.
Officer Shan Johnson said in a probable cause statement when charges were filed against Alston last week that Whitmire and his brother were on the sidewalk outside Bob's Liquors and Deli at Sacramento and Oregon streets when they were approached by Alston and a second suspect.
Whitmire's brother knew Alston and acknowledged him and Alston responded by acknowledging Whitmire's brother, according to Johnson.
But Whitmire's brother then saw Alston and the second suspect approach Whitmire and saw the second suspect displaying a black handgun, Johnson said.
The brother yelled a warning to Whitmire and they both began to flee but the brother then heard "numerous gunshots" and discovered that Whitmire had been struck by the gunshots, Johnson said.
About 30 minutes after the shooting, Whitmire's brother spotted Alston and "physically assaulted him," according to Johnson.
Berkeley police who were nearby spotted the assault and detained the brother and Alston, he said.
The brother identified Alston and said he was one of the people responsible for shooting Whitmire, Johnson said.
Whitmire was taken to Highland Hospital in Oakland, where he was pronounced dead.
Whitmire's death is the third homicide in Berkeley so far this year.
Alston, who has a thin build, short hair and was dressed in a yellow jail uniform today, is scheduled to return to court on May 21 for a preliminary hearing.
His mother and several other family members came to court to support him.