Oakland Man Arraigned on Murder Counts
By Lauren Gard, December 2, 2002 09:40 PM
In Connection With Berkeley Bank Heist
OAKLAND -- A 32 year-old Oakland man was arraigned on six counts of murder and attempted murder today in Alameda County Superior Court in connection with the Nov. 21 armed robbery of a Wells Fargo Bank branch in Berkeley in which a Brink's armored car guard was slain.
Prosecutors said the charges fall under special circumstances clauses and could carry the death penalty if the suspect is convicted.
Roger Tabuuhki Johnson appeared in court briefly wearing red pants and a green shirt, his handcuffed wrists linked to a chain around his waist, his shaved head bowed.
He mumbled just a few words of agreement when informed that his family had chosen Hayward attorney Michael Thorman to represent him. Johnson will next appear with Thorman in court Dec. 12.
Johnson is a suspect in the robbery in which Brink's guard Dena Daniels, 30, was shot and killed. Guard John Buzzard was also injured in the heist, and remains in stable condition at Highland Hospital.
The siege occurred when two masked men armed with AK-47 and AR-15 rifles opened fire on the bank, located at 7th St. and Ashby, shattering the front window and hitting Daniels three times and Buzzard once. Eight shell casings from the rifles were found at the scene.
Buzzard managed to discharge his .38 Special revolver twice during the robbery but court documents did not indicate that he had struck either suspect. The suspects grabbed a canvas money bag and fled in a white Ford Explorer that had been reported stolen from a Hertz Rent-A-Car lot in San Leandro a week earlier. No money was taken in the heist since the two guards had just entered the bank to service an ATM. The Explorer was found nearby.
Johnson was found 13 hours after the holdup in the backseat of a green 2003 Mitsubishi Montero parked in the Berkeley Marina. Police were on the lookout for the car, which had also been reported stolen from the Hertz lot in San Leandro. Johnson was taken into custody and the 22-year old woman he was with was also arrested on unrelated charges.
Among the six charges filed against Johnson was principal possession of an AK-47, an assault rifle that can fire up to 600 rounds per minute. Alameda County Deputy District Attorney James Meehan pointed out that the charge does not necessarily place the weapon in Johnson's hands but alleges that he was part of a group that used the weapon at the crime scene.
"It's capital murder at this point," Deputy District Attorney James Meehan told reporters outside the courtroom, adding that the decision about pushing for the death penalty will be made down the road.
"There's too much left unknown," he said. He also said he is not aware of any other suspects currently in custody.
Meehan also said he did not know if police are working with Johnson to identify other suspects in the burglary and slaying. Authorities suspect there were a handful of other participants.
On Nov. 25 Johnson, whom a source said "wept" and was "emotional," allegedly told police in a videotaped statement that he had been hired to drive the Ford Explorer. Police documents stated that Johnson claimed he was set up and "didn't know what he was getting into."
According to police records in the court statement of charges, several days after his arrest Johnson indicated his desire to cut a deal in exchange for his assistance. Deputy District Attorney Roy Scheingart nixed the idea. Johnson told Scheingart and Berkeley Police Detective Ed Spiller that he could name the other people involved in the heist but "feared for his life and the life of his family." Johnson also said he "felt bad" and wanted to help track down the others because Daniels had a daughter and he, too, has children.
Johnson has a lengthy rap sheet, according to court records. He was last arrested in August in San Leandro after his fingerprints were lifted from a vehicle suspected to have played a part in a bank robbery there. Reasons for his release at that time are unknown and the San Leandro police could not be reached for comment. He was convicted on domestic violence charges in June, possession of a firearm in 1993 and burglary in 1990.