Jose Luis Razo, the Harvard University football player from La Habra who is charged with committing 14 holdups during school breaks, sat quietly in North Municipal Court on Wednesday as four robbery victims retold the fear they felt at gunpoint. "I was terrified," said Linda Lee Daniel, who was closing up the Safeway market on West Imperial Highway in La Habra in December, 1985, when a man in a ski mask pointed a gun at her and told her to give him money. "I was afraid I was going to be shot."
Razo, with one wrist cuffed to his chair and wearing a dark blue pinstripe suit, showed little emotion during the first three hours of his preliminary hearing Wednesday before Judge Arthur D. Guy Jr. The hearing is being held to determine if there is enough merit to the charges to try Razo.
Damnang Meas, who spoke through a Cambodian interpreter, was the first of Razo's alleged victims. He testified that on Dec. 26, 1985, a man wearing a blue-and-yellow ski mask pointed a gun at him and said, "Give me the money."
About $100 Taken
After the bandit took money out of the cash register (about $100, according to police reports), he said "see you later" and then fled, Meas testified.
"Why did you let him take the money?" Deputy Dist. Atty. Christopher J. Evans asked his witness. "I was afraid he would kill, " said the gaunt Cambodian immigrant, whose store, the Driftwood Dairy, is less than two blocks from the Razo family home.
Razo, 21, was an outstanding student and star football linebacker at Servite High School in Anaheim. Born in Mexico and raised in the close-knit Latino community of La Habra, Razo was recruited by several Ivy League universities and chose Harvard, from which he received thousands of dollars in financial aid. He matriculated there in September, 1985, and maintained about a "B" average during his freshman and sophomore years. He also played linebacker and punter for the football team. But during his freshman year, he began robbing dairies, fast-food restaurants and markets when he returned home on vacations, using part of the money to buy things for his family, he said in interviews last summer and allegedly during questioning by police.
The string of robberies came to an end last June. Razo called La Habra police in July and told them he had information about a murder case. But when questioned about the robberies, he proceeded to relate details of the holdups that only the robber or the victim could know, police said. He was arrested on the spot.
Razo has entered a plea of not guilty to the charges, and Deputy Public Defender James S. Egar said his defense will probably be based on "mental issues."
"What makes an altar boy commit armed robberies?" Egar asked in a recent interview. "The contradictions keep leaping up: barrio versus Ivy League; East Coast versus West Coast; rich versus poor; Hispanic versus mainstream."
Razo had said earlier that he "didn't fit" at Harvard and that "no one understood me."
The "mental issues" testimony, if Egar chooses to present it, would be heard at Razo's trial.
In addition to Daniel and Meas, Evans put two other witnesses on the stand Wednesday: Patricia Heslep and Randall Schultz.
Heslep testified that she was working at the Smart and Final Wholesale warehouse on East Imperial Highway in La Habra early in the morning on June 23, 1986, when she turned and saw "a man with a ski mask with a gun in my face."
She gave him about $1,500, she said, and he then ordered her into the back of a delivery truck, where two other employees already were.
Schultz testified that he was in the office of a McDonald's Restaurant on East Imperial Highway last February when he was held up by a man with a ski mask and a handgun.
None of the witnesses identified Razo as the robber, and their descriptions of him ranged from 5 feet, 8 inches and about 180 pounds to six feet and 200 pounds, which is Razo's approximate height and weight. Heslep and Schultz said they thought the thief was Latino based on his dialect.
The hearing continues today at 10 a.m. in North Municipal Court.