A man accused of participating in one of the worst mass shootings in Long Beach’s history took to the witness stand and testified against his co-defendants.
In a Long Beach courtroom, Joshua Sam carefully described his version of events surrounding the shooting at a Halloween-themed party that killed three people and wounded nine others on Oct. 29, 2019.
Sam, along with five co-defendants, are facing nine counts of attempted murder and three counts of murder for the deaths of 35-year-old Melvin Williams II, 28-year-old Ricardo Torres and 25-year-old Maurice Poe Jr.
As part of a plea deal with the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office that could reduce his charges, Sam gave one of the most detailed accounts yet of how he said a group of gunmen ambushed the partygoers in the backyard of a Rose Park home.
Sam testified that Jeremy Penh, a Tiny Raskals Gang “shot caller,” convened a meeting at a North Long Beach apartment to plan the violence, which they incorrectly believed would be targeted at a rival gang.
This was their chance to “shut it down” and “drop them all,” Penh said, according to Sam. In reality, authorities allege, the gunfire rained down on a party of mostly coworkers gathered for a birthday, none of whom had any connection to a gang.
As they planned, Sam said, Penh assigned everyone their role: David Long, Kaylin Thik and Ryan Sims were chosen to be the shooters because they were considered the younger members of the gang and this was a chance to “put in work” and “earn their stripes.”
According to Sam’s testimony, he and Grant Johnson would serve as the getaway drivers, while Christopher Williams and Danny Sourn would be lookouts on the other side of the alleyway.
With the plan in motion, Penh, Long, Thik and Sims got into a Toyota 4Runner, Sam and Johnson in a PT Cruiser, and Williams and Sourn in a Toyota RAV4, and drove in tandem down Orange Avenue before making a left on Seventh Street.
Penh dropped off Long, Thik and Sims in the alleyway behind the house, while Sam, Johnson, Williams and Sourn waited nearby, Sam said.
Shortly after, Sam said, he heard a series of gunshots followed by the faint sound of sirens. He described the three shooters then running to the back seats of the car before he drove them off to Penh’s parents’ home in the 1100 block of Raymond Avenue. There, Sam said, at least one person exited the car and gave the guns to Penh.
Prosecutors say none of the people wounded in the shooting or attending the party were gang members and that Penh masterminded the attack because he believed the host of the party had disrespected his “hood” in a video posted online.
During trial, Penh’s attorney Amy Jacks has not denied that her client was a gang member but told jurors that he wasn’t guilty of the alleged crimes because he wasn’t actually present at the time of the shooting.
During their cross-examination of Sam, defense attorneys attempted to impeach his testimony and questioned his credibility due to his admitted drug and alcohol consumption the day of the shooting.
They also brought into question his criminal record, and his motivation to come forward to the DA’s office to make a deal years after the shooting. They pointed out that without leniency from prosecutors, he faced life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted.
Sam, whose plea deal would have him serve a maximum of 17 years in prison for his role in the crime, admitted that not spending the rest of his life in prison was a motivating factor in him being “willing to tell the truth.”
Another factor, he said, was that one of the victims, Poe Jr., is the son of a childhood friend and that he felt responsible for his death, even if he was only serving as a getaway driver that night.
Sam said that after the shooting, he slowly started distancing himself from the gang. Though he would still sometimes visit one of the gang’s hangouts at the apartment complex in Brayton Avenue, he was focused on a new job he had gotten as a security guard.
Following his arrest in connection to the mass shooting, Sam said he didn’t come forward about the crimes or make a statement to authorities under the advice of his lawyer, who wanted to help him work out the best possible deal.
While in custody, he was assigned to general population with the rest of his co-defendants, but after accepting a proffer session with the DA’s office, Sam said, someone tried to have him killed, so he was moved to protective custody. Since then, he’s no longer considered himself part of Tiny Raskals Gang, he said.
If Sam violates any part of his plea deal, he will again face the same charges as his co-defendants, according to prosecutors.