YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Los Angeles

Knight Associate to Go on Trial

Death Row employee faces attempted murder charges. His family says it's a setup.

September 15, 2003|Chuck Philips | Times Staff Writer

Timothy "Timmy Roo" McDonald did not fire his gun that day. Even the sheriff's deputies who arrested him agree to that.

The case against McDonald, an employee of rap mogul Marion "Suge" Knight, hinges on whether he was getting ready to pull the trigger when the deputies appeared on the scene.

McDonald, 34, is to go on trial this week in Los Angeles Superior Court on charges of attempting to murder a gang rival on a street in South Los Angeles last October. By the authorities' own account, no one was injured in the incident and the intended victim has never been located or identified.

McDonald's family says authorities trumped up the charge to pressure McDonald for information about Knight, owner of Death Row Records.

"The police wanted Timmy to snitch on Suge Knight, to tell lies," said McDonald's mother, Mahalia. "The detectives told Timmy if he didn't play ball, they'd get him."

Deputy Dist. Atty. Dara Williams, who will try the case, denied the allegation.

"There is no indication whatsoever that Mr. McDonald is being set up," Williams said. "I would have never filed this case if I didn't believe I could prove it beyond a reasonable doubt."

McDonald has ties to the Compton gang world and to Knight, whose roster of stars once included Dr. Dre and Tupac Shakur.

A member of the Mob Piru Bloods, McDonald has worked for Death Row as a security guard. His older brother, Alton, was Knight's chief bodyguard until he was gunned down in Compton in April 2002, apparently by gang rivals.

The charges against the younger McDonald stem from an incident Oct. 22, when authorities say they stumbled upon a drive-by shooting about to happen.

McDonald was sitting in the front passenger seat of a silver Chevrolet Monte Carlo sedan that was stopped on Vermont Avenue near 112th Street. About 1:20 p.m., two sheriff's deputies drove past. They saw McDonald pointing a handgun out of the car window, according to the deputies' report.

A man standing on the sidewalk nearby covered his face and ducked, as if expecting to be shot, according to the report.

The driver of the car, Darryl "Biggie" Small, 33, saw the deputies and slapped McDonald in the chest, the report said. McDonald pulled the gun back in and the car sped away, the report said. No shots were fired.

The deputies said that as they pursued the car, they saw McDonald reaching into the rear, as if to conceal the gun.

McDonald and Small, also a Mob Piru Blood, were in a part of South L.A. dominated by the rival Denver Lane Bloods. Investigators contend that McDonald intended to kill the unidentified man to retaliate for the slaying of a Death Row Records employee a week earlier by a Denver Lane gang member.

McDonald's family members say inconsistencies in the deputies' account undermine their case against him.

Court records show that the deputies pursued the Monte Carlo, but did not activate their siren or lights -- standard procedure when chasing a dangerous suspect.

In calling for backup, the deputies did not indicate that McDonald was armed and had tried to kill someone, according to testimony from a preliminary hearing.

Nor did the officers draw their weapons and take cover when ordering McDonald and Small out of the car, which is the normal procedure when pulling over felony suspects. Instead, the deputies treated the situation as a traffic stop and approached the vehicle with their weapons holstered, testimony shows.

McDonald and Small surrendered without a struggle, the deputies' report said. Small volunteered that he was a friend of the intended victim, according to the deputies.

The deputies searched the car, but could not find a weapon. A back-up team later recovered a loaded handgun from a trap between the trunk and the back seat, court records show.

Deputies returned to the corner where the alleged murder attempt occurred, but could not find the intended victim, the report said.

The two deputies were the only witnesses to the alleged incident.

McDonald was initially charged with firearm violations, assault with a deadly weapon and two traffic infractions: driving without proper license plates and failure to wear a seat belt.

When the Sheriff's Department sought to add a charge of attempted murder, the district attorney's office initially refused, said Sandi Gibbons, spokeswoman for the office. Prosecutors told sheriff's officials that they would need to find the intended victim to sustain such a charge.

The Sheriff's Department lobbied prosecutors to reconsider, and the district attorney's gang division agreed to file the attempted murder charge, said Gibbons and Williams, the trial prosecutor. McDonald was formally charged with the offense on Nov. 26.

Under California law, attempted murder occurs when someone with intent to kill takes a substantial step toward that end.

At a preliminary hearing in March, a judge dismissed the attempted murder count after raising questions about the testimony of John Davoren, one of the arresting deputies.

Davoren testified that he could not say for certain whether what he witnessed that day was a murder attempt or mere horseplay between gang members.

McDonald's mother posted $65,000 bail on the original, lesser charges March 20 and her son walked out of jail.

On June 10, prosecutors returned to court and persuaded a different judge to reinstate the attempted murder charge.

McDonald has been in custody since then, unable to post the $550,000 bail.

His mother said her anguish has been compounded by the Sheriff's Department's failure to find the killers of her older son.

Los Angeles Times Articles