BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Three men snuck into a Bakersfield home in 2009 and beat a man unconscious before searching the house for valuables.
Felipe Bravo Jr., 22, one of the men alleged to have taken part in the attempted robbery, was shot dead the next year with his father and girlfriend.
Another, Tokunbo Okuwoga, is accused of killing them.
And the third, Anh Vu Bui, took the witness stand Monday to testify against Okuwoga, his former friend and alleged partner in crime.
Prosecutors say Okuwoga carried out the killings in an attempt to eliminate any witnesses to the attempted robbery. The defense says Bui committed the killings.
Okuwoga, 32, is charged with three counts of murder, among other offenses. His trial is in its second day, and he faces life without the possibility of parole if convicted.
Bui acknowledged accompanying Okuwoga and Bravo to the attempted robbery in 2009. He said he doesn’t know why he went along other than wanting to help his friends.
Bui testified he held the homeowner as Okuwoga beat the man. They fled soon afterward, but prosecutors say they left an important piece of evidence behind: a hat with DNA evidence connecting Bui and Okuwoga to the crime.
Police questioned Bui, who then told Bravo that detectives had contacted him. Bui said Bravo didn’t seem concerned
Okuwoga, however, was afraid either Bui or Bravo were cooperating with law enforcement, Bui testified.
On Sept. 22, 2010, Bui and another friend went to a house in the 2000 block of Bradley Avenue to hang out with Bravo and his girlfriend, Daina Caraveo, 22. Bravo’s father, Felipe Bravo Sr., 43, was also in the home, as were Caraveo’s two children, ages 2 and 5.
Bui testified he was watching TV when Okuwoga arrived and said he wanted to speak with Bravo Jr. Okuwoga seemed “shaky” and nervous, Bui said.
Okuwoga and Bravo spoke in the kitchen about the police investigation. Okuwoga expressed concerns that one of them was “snitching” on him, Bui said.
“Did that make you nervous?” prosecutor Eric Smith asked.
“A little bit,” Bui said.
The front door to the house was partly open, Bui said. He noticed several shadows heading up the driveway so he shut and locked the door. Okuwoga then either struck or pushed him, Bui said, and he ran toward a hallway.
As he ran, he saw a gun in Okuwoga’s hand, Bui testified. Then he heard “a lot of shots.”
Bui said he hid in a bedroom until the shooting was over. He and the friend he’d arrived with then ran from the house.
During cross-examination, defense attorney Gary Turnbull disputed Bui’s account, arguing Bui was the shooter.
“You argued with Bravo (Jr.), didn’t you?” Turnbull asked. Bui said he and Bravo Jr. never argued.
“You did the shooting, didn’t you?” Turnbull continued.
Bui said he had no idea what the attorney was talking about. Turnbull ended his questioning shortly afterward. .
Bravo Jr., Bravo Sr. and Caraveo died from gunshot wounds. The two children were unharmed, found hiding under blankets in the room where the bodies of Bravo Jr. and Caraveo were located.
Police arrested Okuwoga the next day at a bus station in Fresno. He has been in custody since 2010 during which his case has experienced multiple delays and attorneys have come and gone.
Bui said he accepted what Turnbull called a “sweetheart deal” in which he agreed to testify against Okuwoga and enter a no contest plea to assault with force likely to produce great bodily injury in connection with the attempted robbery. Five other felony charges were dismissed.
The criminal history of Bui includes convictions for vehicle theft, petty theft, drug transportation and being a felon in possession of a firearm.