Alcohol, drugs and an argument during a night of partying were allegedly a prelude to a fatal shooting in Glendale last June, according to court testimony.
Suisun City resident Laquan Dontae Parker, 25, and 26-year-old Brandon Jamal Perkins of Stockton were in court Thursday afternoon for the first day of preliminary hearings stemming from the June 25 shooting death of Phillip Niles Jr.
The shooting occurred near an apartment complex in the 1700 block of North Verdugo Road around 3:30 a.m. after Niles allegedly got into an argument with Parker's girlfriend, 18-year-old Dezerae Lyons, and another 18-year-old woman named Daniela Elaine Love.
Both Lyons and Love testified Thursday that the argument occurred after Niles found out the two were pornographic actors.
"Dezerae and Philip got into a fight because [he] was calling her a whore, and I was telling his friend to calm him down because we were having fun," Love said.
The women separately testified that all three had met for the first time that Friday at the Argyle nightclub in Hollywood. Lyons and Love had only communicated on social media beforehand, while Niles encountered them for the first time at the club while out with friends.
Love testified that she, Lyons, Niles and his friends were drinking heavily that night. She said Lyons and Niles were also "making out" with one another — which was corroborated by Lyons.
The group then moved from the club to an apartment in Glendale where a friend of Niles was living.
"First, when we got there, everything was cool" Lyons said. "We were just chilling, drinking and then [Niles] whipped out coke — We did a lot of coke that night."
Lyons said the night "spiraled out" once Love mentioned the two women worked in the pornography industry, which led to Niles throwing insults at them. After arguing for 45 minutes, Lyons said she called Parker to pick her and Love up at the apartment.
The women then left the complex with Niles following behind, continuing the argument, Lyons said.
When they came to the street, they found an empty car belonging to Lyons parked near the apartment. After Lyons and Love got into the car Lyons said in court that Parker and Perkins emerged from some nearby bushes with guns drawn.
Niles then confronted the two men.
"First, they were just talking, but Phillip was just … the word I'm going to use is 'turnt up.' He was really coked out," Lyons testified. "Right away, he was being really racist, acting crazy and just really making bad comments."
Police first received reports of gunfire in the neighborhood around 4 a.m. Glendale Police Sgt. Robert William previously said Niles was shot multiple times and ran a short distance before collapsing in front of a home in the 1600 block of the Midway Street.
Parker and Perkins were apprehended later that day and were each charged with one count of murder, possession of a firearm by a felon with prior convictions and carrying a loaded stolen firearm, according to the Los Angeles County district attorney's office.
The two had been picked up at a hotel in Monrovia where they were staying with Lyons. Two handguns were recovered from the scene, police said.
While Love couldn't recall what happened during the confrontation between the men and who did the shooting, Lyons said Parker was the only one who fired a gun while Perkins watched.
"I heard five gunshots … [Parker] just got in the car like nothing and we literally just drove away," Lyons said. "I feel like me and Daniela were the only ones in shock … Nobody else seemed to care that that just happened."
Nicholas Tucker, an acquaintance of Niles who was at the club and whose apartment the group went to, disputed parts of the women's testimonies.
He said in court Friday that Niles and Lyons were not intimate with one another and denied anyone was doing drugs in his apartment. Tucker admitted that people were drinking heavily and smoking from a hookah but there was no cocaine involved.
He also said the argument between Niles and one of the girls, he couldn't recall which one, was just "bickering back and forth" that lasted only a few minutes.
During his testimony, Tucker repeatedly said Niles was "confused and frustrated" that night but couldn't say the exact reason why. He also said he didn't know why Niles left the apartment.
Several more witnesses testified over the two days, including police officers who responded to the shooting and a nearby bystander.
Parker and Perkins are scheduled to appear in court on Feb. 28 for a pretrial conference.
If convicted, the pair face 50 years to life in prison, and each is being held in lieu of $3-million bail.
Andy Nguyen, email@example.com