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Fresno shooting suspect's mental competency to be evaluated

A court-appointed doctor will evaluate the mental competency of a Fresno man accused of gunning down three men this week because they were white, and killing a security guard in a separate shooting five days earlier.

Kori Ali Muhammad, 39, a black man who spoke of an ongoing race war, made a short but raucous court appearance Friday. He is charged with one count of murder and attempted murder for shooting two security guards on April 13 outside a Motel 6 on Blackstone Avenue, according to the Fresno County district attorney’s office.

During the hearing, Muhammad shouted that natural disasters hitting America will increase and yelled “Let black people go in reparations,” the Associated Press reported.

Muhammad’s public defender expressed doubts about his mental competency, so criminal proceedings were suspended and a doctor was appointed to examine him, Assistant Dist. Atty. Steve Wright said. Muhammad’s next court date is May 12.

Muhammad has not yet been charged in the deaths of three men killed Tuesday in downtown Fresno.

“These killings remain under investigation by the Fresno Police Department, and that investigation has not been submitted to the district attorney’s office for review,” prosecutors said in a statement. “Once the investigation into these incidents is complete and the case is submitted, the district attorney’s office will review that investigation to determine what charges are warranted.”

Authorities said Muhammad’s alleged string of slayings began April 13 at the motel, where he had gone to visit a woman.

He was contacted by the victim, Carl Williams, and a second security guard, Oscar Menjivar. They told the gunman he couldn’t visit the woman without checking in at the motel office first, police said. The woman began arguing with Williams, who was unarmed, when Muhammad fired multiple shots at the victim at close range, police said.

Muhammad told police he shot Williams because "he felt Carl Williams had disrespected him,” said Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer.

After shooting the 25-year-old Fresno resident, Muhammad climbed onto the roof of a nearby 7-Eleven and watched investigators below as they combed the motel for clues, the chief said. He remained there until morning, then hid near a trash bin at an elementary school. During the weekend, he stayed in a ravine in the city, where he practiced voodoo rituals, Dyer said. Muhammad told investigators he prays to seven different gods, although he described himself as Muslim, the chief said.

Muhammad cut off his braids and burned them, the chief said. He slept in the ravine until Tuesday, then headed to a shop in the city to buy crystals for his voodoo rituals, Dyer said. The store was closed, so he went to Starbucks, where he learned from news reports that police were looking for him in connection with Williams’ death, the chief said.

Once he found out he was wanted in connection with a murder, Muhammad told investigators he didn’t want to go down for killing one man — he wanted to “kill as many white males as possible,” Dyer said.

On Tuesday, Muhammad went on a deadly four-minute rampage, police said.

Armed with a .357 magnum revolver, Muhammad walked up to a PG&E truck in the 300 block of North Van Ness Avenue at 10:45 a.m. and fired four rounds into the vehicle, striking Zackary David Randalls, a 34-year-old Clovis resident, police said. The driver sped away and stopped at police headquarters to report the gunman. Dyer said Muhammad chose not to shoot the driver because he was “Hispanic.”

After shooting Randalls, police said, Muhammad fired at a 59-year-old man who had just walked out of a home, but missed. Muhammad then fired on a vehicle but stopped once he saw that the occupants were “two Hispanic females,” the chief said.

Muhammad continued walking in the neighborhood, where he shot Mark James Gassett in the chest, Dyer said. When the 37-year-old Fresno resident fell to the ground, Muhammad stood over him and fired two more rounds into his body, Dyer said.

Next, Muhammad fired at David Martin Jackson and two other men he saw sitting at a bus stop, according to the police chief. As the 58-year-old Fresno resident ran away, Muhammad chased after him and fired two more shots at him, Dyer said. Jackson collapsed and died in the parking lot of Catholic Charities, according to the police chief.

After shooting Jackson, Muhammad — still armed with his handgun that was wrapped in clothing — ran into a man who was carrying a box of food, and the two had a brief conversation, Dyer said. Surveillance footage showed the man setting down the box and retrieving Muhammad’s gun from the clothing, he said. The man then ran out of the neighborhood, jumped a fence, emptied the handgun in a backyard and took off running again, the police chief said.

A total of 17 shots were fired before police spotted Muhammad running in the area. The gunman then “dove onto the ground” and was taken into custody, the police chief said. Muhammad dropped two amulet-type objects, which he told police were for the purpose of protecting against evil, Dyer said.

According to Dyer, Muhammad told police, “I did it. I shot them. You guys are looking for me.”

Dyer said they were still looking for the man who helped Muhammad, and have asked him to turn himself into police.

veronica.rocha@latimes.com

Twitter: VeronicaRochaLA


UPDATES:

1:30 p.m.: This article was updated with details about Muhammad’s court hearing, including the decision to appoint a doctor to evaluate his mental competency.

This article was originally published at 7:05 a.m.

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