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Old 12-19-2003, 05:39 AM
thedrifter thedrifter is offline
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Cool Marines held in sailor?s shooting death

Issue Date: December 22, 2003

Slaying at Del Taco
3 Marines held in sailor?s shooting death

By Gidget Fuentes
Times staff writer

SAN DIEGO ? When Club Metro closes its doors for the night at the 32nd Street Naval Station, a parking lot close outside the gates becomes a popular hangout for young people ? sailors, Marines and civilian friends.
Tuesday night ?is a special day for the club,? said Omar Leon, a night clerk at a nearby gas station. In the wee hours of Wednesdays, the parking lot at the Del Taco fast-food restaurant usually teems with cars and young men and women, many decked out in night-club outfits and some still giddy after an evening of partying, drinking and dancing at Club Metro?s popular hip-hop night. The Del Taco crowd swells around 2 a.m., ?just to have fun,? Leon said.

But in the early morning hours of Nov. 19, about a half-hour after Navy police broke up a fight outside Club Metro, gunfire sprayed into the crowd of 40 or 50 people milling around the Del Taco lot.

Bullets fired from a dark Nissan sedan struck three sailors and a female companion, knocking them to the ground before the car sped away, up a street leading to busy Interstate 5.

San Diego police were on the scene in minutes. Within a few hours, 19-year-old Seaman Roderick D. Little, an operations specialist slated to join the amphibious assault ship Boxer, was dead.

Nearly a month later, three young Marines from Camp Pendleton ? members of an infantry battalion that saw combat in Iraq last spring ? were arrested, jailed and charged in the drive-by shooting.

San Diego police said Little was part of the group involved in the fight, apparently sparked by arguments over a woman.

Of the four victims, two sailors from the transport dock Denver were wounded and have since recovered, as has a civilian woman also shot. Police won?t identify the victims while the case is being investigated.

For three weeks, police and Navy Criminal Investigative Service investigators fielded calls and questioned witnesses to find who was in the sedan that night. Just before dawn on Dec. 6, San Diego police, armed with a warrant, arrested four Marines, all assigned to 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, at Camp Pendleton. The four Marines were booked on charges of murder and conspiracy to commit murder.

Civilian prosecutors dropped charges against one of the Marines before the other three ? Lance Cpls. Myron A. Thomas, 21, Kenneth Jay Hall, 19, and Bernard Jones, 19 ? pleaded not guilty Dec. 10 in San Diego Superior Court.

Wearing socks and issued slippers and dressed in blue pants and shirts emblazoned with ?S.D. Jail,? the three Marines, handcuffed to one another, stood before Judge Peter C. Deddeh. A dozen relatives and friends sat in the hushed courtroom.

Thomas, a field radio operator from Fort Bend, Texas, and Hall, a food service specialist from Rankin, Miss., each are charged with murder and with three counts of assault with a machine gun. Prosecutors said Hall was driving the car, and they fingered Thomas as the triggerman who fired what police have said may have been a rifle, into the crowd that night. Thomas is being held without bail, and Hall is being held in lieu of a $1 million bond.

Jones, a food service specialist from New Orleans, whose actions in the vehicle aren?t clear, is charged with conspiracy and accessory to a crime and was in jail in lieu of a $150,000 bond. Prosecutors believe he helped dispose of shell casings from the car later that morning.

After a bail review hearing Dec. 17, the three Marines will return to court Jan. 30 for a preliminary hearing.

?Great Marines?

To the prosecutor, Assistant District Attorney Michael Groch, the three Marines took part in a senseless, drive-by shooting.

?There was a dispute between the victim and this group? stemming from Club Metro, Groch told the court. Later, Hall drove the car with Thomas and Jones and circled once around the Del Taco before ?the rounds came down,? he said. ?Mr. Thomas fired five or six shots.?

?Mr. Hall was driving; Mr. Thomas was the shooter,? Groch said, adding that Jones ?intentionally disposed of? the shell casings.

A public defender will be assigned to Thomas, who potentially faces the most serious charges.

Hall?s and Jones? lawyers painted a different picture of their clients, who each deployed to Iraq and never have been in trouble with the law.

Allan Bloom, Hall?s defense attorney, noted the Marine?s outstanding awards received at his Jackson, Miss., high school, ?which was not very long ago.? Hall had received scholarships at five different universities ?and decided instead to enlist,? Bloom told the court. Letters from Hall?s company first sergeant describe the young Marine as ?professional in carrying out his orders.?

?He is a very sincere and a caring young man,? Bloom said, noting the Marine?s parents, Charles and Theresa Hall, had flown in from Mississippi for the court proceeding.

Brian B. Watkins, Jones? attorney, said the Marine, who received the Combat Action Ribbon and has a certificate of commendation pending for his Iraq duty, has cooperated since his arrest on charges ?after the fact.?

The Marines? arrests came as a shock to the battalion.

?They were great Marines. They did a good job for us,? 1st Lt. Toby Flinn, executive officer of Headquarters and Support Company, 1/4, said in the court hallway before the arraignment. ?All I can say is it was a surprise to us.?

Parking lot a ?hot spot?

The Del Taco eatery shares the intersection of 28th and Main streets with three other fast-food joints, but late at night, it?s the only one open.

In the early morning hours, the parking lot can become a place for trouble, mostly stemming from the crowd leaving Club Metro.

The size of the crowd at the club ?is a catalyst there,? said San Diego Police Sgt. Ron Larmour, an investigative sergeant with the department?s Central Division. It?s ?a hot spot that could erupt.? He said the number of club-goers often swells to well over a thousand.

?On Tuesday nights, the clientele that goes to that club, whether hip-hop or rap, it pulls in the mind-set of the gang mentality, both from the base and outside the gates,? Larmour said. ?It?s the one night of the week that they always have problems.?

San Diego police, who are dealing with a recent rise in gang violence in the city, say the Del Taco shooting isn?t gang related.

Club policy allows military members to bring in civilian guests, most of whom travel onto the base with the sailors and Marines.

Changes in the works

Local Navy officials are working with San Diego police to solve some of the problems that arise from Club Metro crowds and local hangout spots.

The group will review current policies, and changes could include tightening the club?s guest policy, perhaps by limiting the number of civilian guests or banning them outright. More security, either on or off the base, could be added on certain nights or in certain places. Places such as the Del Taco lot where large crowds congregate could be put on the region?s ?off-limits? list for military personnel, although Sam Samuelson, a naval station spokesman, said the Navy ?doesn?t want to fault the legitimate businesses out there.?

Already, changes are afoot at the Del Taco.

Restaurant manager Elena Martinez said the business will install more outdoor lighting and will cordon off the parking lot as a way to deter large numbers of people from congregating.

Gidget Fuentes is the San Diego bureau chief for Marine Corps Times. Contact her by e-mail at


SSgt. Roger A.
One Proud Marine
Once A Marine............Always A Marine.............
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Old 12-19-2003, 05:44 AM
thedrifter thedrifter is offline
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Join Date: Apr 2002
Posts: 4,601

Bail status unchanged in sailor's fatal shooting

2:00 p.m. December 17, 2003

SAN DIEGO ? A San Diego judge today refused to change the bail status of three Camp Pendleton Marines accused in the fatal shooting of a Navy sailor at a taco stand near the 32nd Street Naval Base on Nov. 19.

Superior Court Judge David Szumowski ordered that Lance Cpl. Myron Thomas remain held without bail.

Lance Cpl. Kenneth Hall remains in jail in lieu of $1 million bail and Lance Cpl. Bernard Jones remains in custody in lieu of $150,000.

Thomas, 21, and Hall, 19, are charged with first-degree murder in connection with the death of Roderick Little, 22, an active duty sailor who went AWOL in San Diego.

They're also charged with three counts of assault with a semiautomatic handgun.

Jones, 19, is charged with being an accessory after the fact for allegedly getting rid of shell casings.

Thomas allegedly shot into a group about 2:30 a.m. at a Del Taco restaurant parking lot in Barrio Logan.

The Marines and the sailor had allegedly been involved in an argument while at a nightclub at the naval base.

A preliminary hearing is set for Jan. 30.


SSgt. Roger A.
One Proud Marine
Once A Marine............Always A Marine.............
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