“He’s Out There Sleeping”
by Bruce McEwen, September 28, 2016
A preliminary examination of the evidence against Charles Reynolds in the death of Kenneth Fisher has resulted in a holding order against Reynolds, which was no surprise to those who feel Fisher was deliberately killed by Reynolds’ single punch outside of Boomer’s Bar in Laytonville. There was enough light left on that fatal Sunday of August 28th at 8:30 in the evening, enough light for at least one witness to recognize both men.
The judge’s decision to continue the preliminary hearing was a disappointment to family and friends of the late Fisher, only 29, a kid really, raised in the hill country of Spy Rock, known since childhood by everyone in Laytonville. Everyone who knew him wants the charges against Reynolds increased to murder and, at the very least, a substantial increase in the his bail. (Reynolds is free on a $50,000 bond.)
The eyewitness who claimed he saw the “sucker punch” was not in court last Thursday, but his statement to the homicide detective was enough for Judge Ann Moorman to issue the order that Reynolds answer to a felony charge of assault resulting in great bodily injury.
Reynold’s attorney argued the only argument he has in the known circumstances — that Reynolds did not intend any “great bodily injury” with that single punch. But what was intended was not at issue for the purposes of the preliminary hearing, and it will have to go to a jury to decide whether it was that old bar room standby, “mutual combat,” or Reynolds acting in self-defense because, as defense claims, “Fisher was the aggressor.”
A video has shown, and eye witnesses agree, that Fisher came up to Reynolds in the bar and put an arm around his neck, “being jovial,” and Reynolds angrily pushed him away with an angry claim that Fisher owed him $5,000. None of the cameras in the area caught the parkling lot punch that killed Fisher.
It would be easy to suppose the incident resulted from the underground economy, inasmuch as there’s no legal recourse for monetary disputes in the pot business. Be that as it may, only the willfully obstinate would deny that Laytonville is a growers’ town, and Boomers is a grower’s watering hole.
Years ago, Boomers was the bar of choice for some of Mendo’s toughest loggers and millworkers. But those days disappeared along with the big trees of northern Mendocino County, and now we have marijuana with different people working the hill country. Nowadays the presumption is that “BOOMERS” refers to the baby boomers who frequent the place, but Boomers can be construed every which way.
Having stood across the street for hours on end, hitchhiking north, I can testify as to the Boomer’s clientele, the macho four-wheel drive trucks with lift kits, big fat tires, and rows of plant watering jugs in the back. The drivers wear Muck boots and hoodies, camo pants and ball caps — pretty much the uniform of the pot pharma and the ‘hipneck,’ the male children of marriages between hippies and rednecks.
Never having dared enter (I drank down the street at the more placid and sedate Wheels), I imagine the high rise truck boys inside, talking shop and comparing strains, maybe boasting about the latest crop, bumping chests, bumping fists, and cutting deals for thousands of dollars and hundreds of pounds — way out of my dime-bag league.
If the name didn’t give bar hoppers second thoughts before (as it always did me), the reputation of the place resulting from this incident certainly should. But, hell, I’ve seen fist fights in country club bars. America can happen anywhere.
When a pot deal goes sour, you don’t say “I’ll see you in court” — you say, “Outside,” but these days it’s a good idea to stay inside with zero suggestion you’re thinking of violence.
“Then out of the blue, Charlie Reynolds reared back and punched Kenny Fisher with his right fist.”
“Were the two squaring off, getting ready to fight?”
“In no way, shape or form, were they squaring off.”
“Did Mr. Fisher see the punch coming?”
“Objection, that’s pure speculation.”
True enough. Fisher having never regained consciousness, no one knows what he saw. Also, Deputy DA Luke Oakley wasn’t asking the eyewitness, he was addressing his questions to Detective Matt Croskey, who had taken a statement from the witness, Chris Bradley — who had just come out of the restaurant behind Boomers, and knew both Fisher and Reynolds — a local, as were Reynolds and Fisher. But the question referred to what the witness told the officer he thought was likely or possible (hearsay and speculation) — so the objection was overruled.
On cross, when defense attorney Macci Baldock asked Detective Croskey a question that called for a similar amount of hearsay and speculation, Deputy DA Oakley’s objection was sustained — this sounds unfair, but a prelim is not a trial, and the prosecution is given more latitude than defense. These contingencies ought to be kept in mind during a prelim, or a report of one in a newspaper.
Croskey: “Not only was it right out of the blue, but he said it was one of the hardest punches he’d ever seen.”
Ms. Balldock reacted hopelessly to this comment, throwing her hands at the ceiling, as if to say, “Does this include all the punches he’s seen at the movies? The Hulk knocking the Joker over a skyscraper?” Again, the officer was only quoting what the witness told him, and there was no way to cross-examine a witness who wasn’t there.
Croskey: “He said it flat-out leveled Mr. Fisher.”
Oakley: “Did Fisher try to brace himself as he fell to the ground?”
Croskey: “Mr. Bradley said he thought Fisher had been knocked out cold. Then Mr. Reynolds walked over and looked at him nonchalantly and walked back in the bar. Then, Mr. Bradley went over and recognized him as Ken Fisher, someone he knew. Mr. Fisher was on his back, gurgling, so [Mr. Bradley] rolled Fisher on his side, continued monitoring his breathing, checked his pulse and noticed it was no longer there, and began giving him CPR until the ambulance arrived.”
Oakley: “There was no pulse?”
Croskey: “He said there was a faint pulse, which came in and out, until at last he could find it no longer. After a few moments he noticed Mr. Reynolds come out of the bar and walk away in a southerly direction.”
Officer Luke Adams found and detained the “distraught” Mr. Reynolds at Wheels café and bar (a place where even trimmers can afford a burger and a beer).
Deputy James Elmore was called, but first Judge Moorman wanted to give her staff a smoke break — it had been a long morning — and while the clerks light the smoking lamp, let me digress momentarily into a critique of my colleagues in the local press.
A recent story that went what is now called “viral” about horrors committed by pot pharmas has inspired a new (on-line) newspaper MendoVoice that vows to pull back the veil on the pot industry, and Kym Kemp, The Redheaded Black Belt — who has had her finger on the pulse for years — has, tardily, methinks, been offered a column in High Times. But a one-punch killing by two long-time pot industry guys is kinda inconvenient to the myth that it’s all peace, love and grilled cheese sandwiches in the love drug industry.
Deputy Elmore was just pulling up to the scene of the crime — if there was one — when he saw the ambulance go howling away down the highway. He did a cop-huey, code three, and took up the rear guard, following the ambulance. On the stand he said he could see the EMTs working on Fisher through the back windows of the ambulance.
Oakley: “Did you speak to a Mathias Marsh?”
Croskey: “I did, on August 30th. He’d been at the bar that night, hanging out with Reynolds. He said they were talking when Fisher came over and put his arm around Reynolds in a jovial manner, but Reynolds pushed his arm away. Up to that point, he said, everyone was in a good mood. After the shove, Reynolds asked Fisher to step outside, complaining about $5,000 he was owed.”
Oakley: “Did Marsh go outside?”
Croskey: “He went back in, and when Reynolds came back in, Marsh asked him — ‘Hey, Charlie, what’s up?’ And Reynolds said ‘He’s [Fisher] out there sleeping’.”
Oakley: “Did you see anything on the surveillance video?”
Croskey: “It corroborated that Fisher put his arm around Reynolds and was shoved away.”
Oakley: “Was there another video from the rock shop outside Boomers?”
Croskey: “Yes.” (The Rock Shop video did not show the punch.)
Oakley: “Did you speak with Dr. Benjamin?”
Oakley: “And who is she?”
Croskey: “The pathologist for Mendocino County.”
Oakley: “Did you ask if she performed an autopsy on Mr. Fisher?”
Croskey: “She did.”
Croskey used the medical terminology which meant that Fisher died from a burst artery in his brain, stemming from a blow to his head.
On cross-examination Ms. Balldock asked if Croskey talked to her client.
Croskey: “I did.”
Balldock: “How did he react when he learned Kenneth was dead?”
Croskey: “He was distraught.”
Balldock: “Was he shocked?”
Croskey: “Yes, Ma’am.”
Balldock: “He cried, didn’t he?”
Croskey: “Yes, Ma’am.”
Balldock: “Anything else?”
Croskey: “No, that ended the interview.”
Balldock: “But he stated he punched Mr. Fisher because he feared for his safety —?”
Oakley: “Objection, hearsay.”
Balldock had Croskey draw a diagram of the area, then she put up some photos of the crime scene, taken later that night, after the lights came on, and it was established that it had still been light when the incident took place.
Balldock argued that her client had not intended to do any great bodily injury, and that one punch was not likely to result in great bodily injury, but the judge wouldn’t hear it.
Moorman: “He punched him! That’s assault! I’m gonna hold him to answer!”
That was it. Reynolds was ordered back on October 6th at 9:00am for arraignment on the information resulting from the preliminary examination.