Trial begins for alleged gang members accused of conspiring to kill rival gang member

A small party spilled into gang violence in a 2017 shooting in North Long Beach that left one man dead and his cousin severely injured, prosecutors said as trial began Friday for two of the men accused of pulling the trigger.

Police officers testified in Long Beach Superior Court that they found Deon Robinson, 47, and his cousin Stephan Harvey, 36, both lying in the street with gunshot wounds in the early morning hours of Oct. 7, 2017 on E. 56th Street near Orange Avenue.

Harvey survived his wounds, but Robinson died at the scene.

One month later, police arrested three men in connection to the shooting: Brandon Vincent Davis, 29, was charged with one count of murder and one count of attempted murder and conspiracy to commit murder. Darshay Holland, 26, was charged with one count of conspiracy to commit murder and one count of witness intimidation with a gang enhancement. And Ricky Lee Vaughn, who was not on trial Friday because he is being held in San Bernardino on a different case, was charged with one count of murder, one count of conspiracy to commit murder and being an ex-felon with a handgun. The charges against each of them carry gang enhancements.

In their opening statements, attorneys for the defendants told the jury that Davis and Holland had just been at a party with about six other friends, drinking and smoking marijuana on the night of the killing.

“People were drinking and being foolish and having a good time. No one was sitting around that evening conspiring to kill anyone,” Adam Koppekin, the attorney representing Davis, told the jury.

A video that Deputy District Attorney Robert Song showed the jury from that night depicts a group of four women and four men in a home drinking alcohol from a funnel and dancing. Koppekin said people started going outside around midnight to start heading home.

In another video from a security camera on a house across the street, three men are shown charging and a fourth man, Trazell Burnett, are shown hanging out outside and going back and forth from their cars.

Song said that according to witnesses, Robinson and Harvey had been sitting in their car when they exited, walked towards their group and “announced” Robinson’s gang, the 20s Crips.

The group said they were from a rival gang called “LAC,” according to Song.

Koppekin disputed that detail, saying someone in the group stated they weren’t looking for trouble, but said when Robinson and Harvey challenged again, someone from the group—Koppekin said he doesn’t know who—stated their own gang affiliation and “gunfire ensued.”

Song noted in his opening statement that evidence showed at least 12 bullets came from two guns but from only one direction: the defendants’. He also said that police found no guns or weapons on either victim.

The women who were at the party witnessed the shooting and will testify, Song said. Vaughn, the third suspect arrested in the shooting, allegedly told an undercover jailhouse informant that Davis “messed up” because the women were right near him when he started shooting and would be able to identify him, Song said.

Holland is accused of contacting one of the women and telling her to “keep her mouth shut.”

If convicted as charged, Davis and Holland both face up to life in prison.

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Valerie Osier is a breaking news and crime reporter for the Long Beach Post. She’s a Riverside native who found her love for journalism while at community college. She graduated from Cal State University, Long Beach journalism program in 2017 and covered the Palos Verdes Peninsula for the Daily Breeze prior to coming to the Post. She lives in Long Beach with her husband, Steven, and her cat/child, Jones.