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Judge drops attempted murder charge in alleged gang shooting case

A judge ruled today there was insufficient evidence for an attempted murder charge in the trial of a 20-year-old man involved in an alleged gang-related shooting in Indio.

Dominic McNeal was 18 when the alleged crime occurred, and was one of five people arrested for shooting a gang rival Feb. 23, 2018 in a parking lot near Clark’s Travel Center at 82-253 Indio Blvd.

The victim, whose identity was not released, underwent surgery and survived a close-range gunshot wound to the abdomen.

According to court documents, surveillance video of the about-7:45 p.m.-shooting shows the suspects and their vehicle, a gray four-door passenger van with rust on top.

The suspected shooter and another person were juveniles at the time, and their names were withheld. Co-defendants Joseph Riley, 20, and Charles Salter, 24, are awaiting trial for attempted murder.

McNeal is accused of driving the group to and from the scene.

At a preliminary hearing today, Riverside County Deputy District Attorney Steven Sorensen played video allegedly posted online by one of the co-defendants, saying it showed the moments just before the suspects arrived at the parking lot.

That video appears to depict the suspects in the van, drinking something known as lean — a mixture of soda and cough syrup — and flashing gang signs. A gun can be seen in the video.

Defense attorney Christopher Hickey argued that while the video captured ill-advised behavior, it did not prove premeditation on the part of McNeal.

“I don’t think it was presumed that a shooting was going to happen,” he said, adding that there was no evidence McNeal was a gang member, rather, he was “hanging out with the wrong crowd.”

Hickey pointed to several aspects of the parking lot surveillance video to argue that McNeal had no prior knowledge a shooting was imminent. He said the vehicle was parked head-first in a stall, in the “absolute worst spot if you’re going to act as a getaway,” and that McNeal turned off the headlights just before the shooting, suggesting he wasn’t planning to flee.

Riverside County Judge Russell Moore agreed with the interpretation and struck the attempted murder charge.

“This is a reach by the people,” Moore said of the dismissed charge.

McNeal is scheduled to be arraigned Nov. 6 as an accessory-after-the-fact to the attempted murder charge, which includes gang- and gun-sentencing enhancements.

McNeal is being held at the Larry D. Smith Correctional Facility in Banning on $500,000 bail.

KESQ 2019

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