Gregory Elarms Sr., the man who was accused of gunning down East Palo Alto community activist David Lewis at the Hillsdale Shopping Center in 2010, will be tried on weapons charges, San Mateo County Superior Court Judge John Grandsaert ruled Thursday, Dec. 20.
Elarms is charged with possession of shanks in county jail, including a sharpened toothbrush, a sharpened spork and two sharpened pencils tied together to work as a stabbing instrument. He was in custody facing special circumstances murder charges for allegedly gunning down Lewis in the shopping mall parking garage on June 9, 2010.
But the court threw out the murder charges in November after a defense motion that Elarms was denied his Miranda rights. His defense attorney, Jonathan McDougall, had argued that San Mateo police violated Elarms' rights when they continued to question him although he had asked for an attorney.
Police said Elarms laid in wait for Lewis at San Mateo General Hospital where Lewis worked and followed him to the shopping center where he confronted him and shot him once. Lewis was a well-known community activist who helped found the Free At Last drug rehabilitation program in East Palo Alto and was instrumental in starting the successful parolee reentry program. The two knew each other as youths in East Palo Alto.
McDougall sought to have the weapons charges dismissed on claims that Elarms was denied his right to a speedy trial. But Grandsaert rejected that argument.
If the motion was granted, Elarms would have walked free from court. Prosecutors are seeking to keep him in custody while the California Attorney General's Office appeals the murder-charges dismissal.
Elarms remains in custody on $500,000 bail. He will appear in court Jan. 3 for a preliminary hearing and a hearing to reduce his bail.
In July 2011, while Elarms still faced the murder charges, Judge Mark Forcum found him incompetent to stand trial and ordered him hospitalized. The court later ruled he could be treated by the hospital involuntarily if necessary.
Atascadero State Hospital doctors found Elarms competent in May. Judge Lisa Novak ruled on Aug. 22 that he is competent to stand trial with the aid of medication.