The trial of a 19-year-old Yakima man accused of killing a 16-year-old boy last year in what police described as a drug deal gone bad has been postponed until January.
Jury selection had just begun in the trial of Cameron Helland when defense attorney Ulvar Klein asked that the trial be rescheduled to Jan. 6. Both Klein and Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Nicholas Barrett declined to comment on the reason for the delay.
Helland is charged with second-degree murder in the shooting death of Davontae R. Mesa at West Valley Community Park on Nov. 23, 2018.
Police found Davontae in the parking lot with multiple gunshot wounds to his torso and spent shell casings on the ground, according to court documents. Witnesses told police Davontae had gone to the park to buy marijuana from Helland and got in his car, where an argument ensued and Davontae was shot while getting out of the vehicle.
Helland drove off, but later came back to the scene and surrendered to a sheriff’s deputy.
In a March court filing seeking to have Helland’s bail reduced or have him released on home monitoring, Klein said witnesses now say Davontae attacked Helland in the car and tried to choke him, and Helland only shot in self-defense.
“They all knew that Cameron had been carrying a gun with him and that he would very likely be armed when Davontae jumped him,” Klein wrote. “Yet Cameron was apparently not supposed to resist as he was being choked and beaten in the very same parking lot where just a few months earlier another young man was shot to death by a friend of theirs in an alleged drug deal.”
On July 19, 2018, Eduardo Rodriguez-Castaneda was found shot to death inside his pickup in the same parking lot. David Paul Ortega Jr., 19, is awaiting trial on a second-degree murder charge in that case.
In response to Klein’s request, Barrett said “substantial evidence” suggests that Helland had no reason to fear Davontae would kill him, and that by firing eight shots from a .40-caliber pistol — four of which hit Davontae in the back — Helland used excessive force in the situation, according to court documents.
Helland’s initial $1 million bail has been reduced to $100,000.
Earlier this year, Helland pleaded guilty to underage handgun possession in connection with the case and is awaiting sentencing on that charge, a misdemeanor.