OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- After almost two years on the run, Laron Marques Gilbert, a third suspect in the former police officer Kevin Nishita murder case, was extradited back to the Bay Area and booked into Santa Rita Jail on Tuesday.
"I just want to say thank you from Kevin, our family, and myself. Thank you to Oakland Police Department, the U.S. Marshalls, and all of the law enforcement agencies that were involved with this capture," says Virginia Nishita, the widow of Mr. Nishita.
Kevin Nishita, a retired veteran police officer, was shot on November 24, 2021, while guarding a TV news crew. He died several days later.
Gilbert was arrested by U.S. Marshalls on January 17, 2024, in Kansas City, Missouri. All three suspects, Shadihia Mitchell, Hershel Hale and Gilbert, currently face murder charges.
"We believe Gilbert was the driver," says Oakland Police Sergeant Nicole Allen. She is the lead investigator in the case.
But the Alameda County Public Defenders Office, which represents Mitchell, says there is evidence contrary to what OPD is alleging.
In a previous statement to ABC7 News, Alameda County Public Defender Brendon Woods writes:
"The evidence clearly shows that someone else fired the fatal shots. Police arrested that man less than one month after this event, but failed to book him on the murder warrant in this case. He's now been on the run for two years. Investigators, including Oakland police Det. Phong Tran, then tried to cover up their incompetence by skewing the case to make it seem like our client was the shooter."
Similarly, sources familiar with the case say that Alameda County District Attorney, Pamela Price, will review the charges against Gilbert, now that he is custody.
Sources add Gilbert will not be charged with enhancements because the prosecutor, under former Alameda County District Attorney, Nancy O'Malley, allegedly "charged the wrong person with the shooting."
This case has been used in the recall campaign against D.A. Price, as an example of her being soft on crime and dropping special enhancements.
Price's office did not return a request for comment. But in a December 18, 2023, statement, Price writes: "We believe there is evidence to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt to charge both defendants, Shadihia Mitchell and Hershel Hale, each with one count of first-degree murder, which carries with it 25 years to life sentences, as well as arming enhancements."
"At this point the case is in the hands of the Alameda County D.A.'s office," says Sgt. Allen. "This is still an active investigation, but at this point, we are going forward with Shadihia shooter, Laron driver."
According to jail records, Gilbert is being held without bail at Santa Rita Jail. Not details yet as when he will appear his first court appearance.
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