BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — A man present at the shooting of a corrections counselor near an electric charging station last week identified the gunman, who he said targeted the counselor because he “probably had money due to possessing an electric vehicle,” court documents say.
The man said he didn’t know Robert Pernell Roberts — whom he knows as “AWOL” — had a gun on him or was going to shoot anyone, say the reports released Tuesday morning.
Roberts, 29, is charged with murder, attempted robbery and possession of a gun by a felon in the death of Benny Alcala Jr. the night of Aug. 24 outside the Target on Stockdale Highway. He’s due in court Wednesday.
Alcala worked within the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation from 2006 to his death, according to a CDCR press secretary and family. The 43-year-old was declared dead at the scene.
In addition to the witness’s statement, police retrieved call data records showing Roberts’ phone in the area before the shooting, and he was caught on surveillance cameras at nearby businesses, according to the reports.
Also, police say a text sent from a number linked to Roberts said, “I just killed somebody. Watch the news.”
Roberts was on post-release supervision. Court records show prior felony convictions for burglary and robbery.
Body found on sidewalk
Alcala left home about 7:45 pm. to charge his Hyundai IONIQ5, his wife told police. She became worried around 9 p.m. after receiving a notification the vehicle had been charging too long. Alcala didn’t answer the phone
She drove to the shopping center and saw police activity.
The reports say police received a call at about 9:05 p.m. for a man lying on the sidewalk. There was a call reporting shots fired in the same area about 30 minutes earlier.
Firefighters provided medical care and declared Alcala dead at 9:20 p.m. A Target shopping bag containing drinks and a receipt were found nearby, and surveillance footage shows Alcala enter the store at 8:03 p.m. and leaving at 8:20 p.m., according to the documents.
He walks toward his vehicle but the camera is partly blocked by trees in the parking lot and can’t view the area where the Hyundai is parked, the reports say.
Witnesses contact police
On Aug. 26, a witness contacted police and said gunfire hit his vehicle two nights earlier as he drove west on Stockdale Highway past the charging stations. The witness told police three people were standing near the charging stations and he had believed a drug deal was taking place.
Another person who drove by the area around the time of the shooting also spoke to police. Both provided descriptions of those involved and police reviewed surveillance footage.
Days later, detectives located a man matching wearing the same clothing as seen in the video and detained him. He told them about AWOL and the events leading up to the shooting.
The man, whose name is redacted, said AWOL told him he needed money to get a ride back to the “hood,” according to the documents. He said AWOL saw a man charging a vehicle and figure he’d have money.
AWOL approached the man as he sat on a curb.
“(The detained man) stated as ‘AWOL’ was closing in (Alcala) stood up and began to back away,” an investigator wrote. “At this time (the detained man) was a distance away but saw the victim and ‘AWOL’ on sidewalk next to Stockdale Highway.
“He said he could not see either subject but heard one shot and he started to walk away from the area.”
A records checked revealed “AWOL” as Roberts, police said, and the man identified him from a photo lineup.
Roberts was arrested the night of Sept. 1.
In 2011, Roberts was charged with robbery and harming an elderly adult after allegedly yanking a gold necklace from the neck of an 84-year-old man. He fled but was later identified by witnesses and the victim.
Roberts pleaded no contest to second-degree robbery and was sentenced to more than two years in jail.