He lied to police, man on trial says

PASADENA — The man accused of shooting a 16-year-old Glendale boy to death in 2004 admitted to giving a completely false account of the incident to authorities while on the stand for the second day Wednesday.

Deputy District Atty. Martin Bean spent more than an hour comparing statements 20-year-old Carlos Palma gave police to testimony he gave in Pasadena Superior Court on Tuesday in which he admitted to shooting 16-year-old Carlos Pinon on Dec. 30, 2004, in Glendale.

"You lied to the police about everything, correct?" Bean said.

"Yes," Palma replied.

When he was arrested Dec. 31, 2004, Palma told police that he spent the entire night at his girlfriend's house in Eagle Rock. But in court on Tuesday he told jurors how he came to shoot Pinon and another boy several times from a car window that night.

"Why did you lie to [the police]?" Bean asked.

"Because I didn't trust them," Palma said.

He said when police found him in the backyard of his mother's house in Echo Park smoking a cigarette on Dec. 31, he was unaware they were treating the incident as gang-related.

But as officers ordered Palma to get down at gunpoint, Palma said he raised his hands in plain sight so they "wouldn't think I had a gun."

"Why do you distrust the police?" Bean said.

"Because you guys are trying to make this thing gang-related, and it isn't," Palma replied.

Lawyers for Palma and 21-year-old Juan Martinez — whose charges in the shooting carry enhancements for benefiting a street gang — have maintained the pair, both Echo Park residents, have never been part of a gang.

In addition to confronting the disparities in his testimony, Palma also took the court through a more detailed version of the shooting, including what he said caused him to fire the gun in the first place.

After it was handed to Palma in the backseat of Martinez's car while driving to a house party on the corner of Justin Avenue and Lake Street, he said he put it on the car's floorboard, "because I didn't want no part of the gun."

As Pinon and two others confronted the car, Palma said he could see Pinon fidget with a chrome handle tucked into his waistband.

As soon as Palma thought it might be a gun, he reached for his own, sat up, and without pausing, pointed it at Pinon and started shooting.

He said he continued to pull the trigger as Martinez drove the car around the corner onto Lake Street in the same direction that Pinon was running.

"I don't have good aim," Palma said. "It was my first time shooting a gun."

He later testified that none of the three boys who had approached Martinez's car had a weapon, or that he ever actually saw Pinon with a gun.

Defense lawyers also introduced phone records that included cellular and house calls made by both men the night of the shooting as they attempted to shore up a timeline.

  • JASON WELLS covers public safety and the courts. He may be reached at (818) 637-3232 or by e-mail at jason.wellslatimes.com.
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