Trial for Grover man ordered

Ryan Soqui
Ryan Soqui

A Grover Beach man was ordered Friday to stand trial for allegedly kidnapping a Cal Poly student during a carjacking.

Ryan Joseph Soqui, 23, was in Superior Court for a preliminary hearing into an alleged Nov. 4 carjacking at gunpoint in San Luis Obispo.

Soqui has pleaded not guilty to kidnapping, carjacking and robbery allegedly committed against Cal Poly student Yi Tak Choi as she was on her way to study at the campus library.

Choi, 23, testified Friday that Soqui knocked on the window of her 2000 Audi, and when she rolled it down to see what he wanted, he jumped in the car and pointed a gun at her.

Soqui initially had a yellow scarf around his neck, which he pulled up to cover his mouth and nose while they rode in the car, Choi testified.

He ordered her to drive south on Highway 101, eventually taking control of the car and driving to Wells Fargo Bank on Foothill Boulevard, she said.

Choi testified that after Soqui initially pointed the gun at her, he said, “Don’t do anything stupid or else.”

When asked by Deputy District Attorney Caryn Michaels, “or else, what?” Choi was overcome by emotion and couldn’t answer, leading Judge John Trice to grant a recess.

Michaels resumed questions after the break, and Choi said that Soqui threatened to kill her if she did “something stupid.”

Choi testified that Soqui took $200 from her wallet and ordered her to use her ATM card to withdraw $300 from Wells Fargo Bank.

But when she was out of sight from where Soqui parked near Albertsons, Choi ran into Nucci’s restaurant and reported the crime, she said.

Defense attorney Joseph Lax asked her if she knew if the gun was fake, and Choi said she didn’t know it at the time of the alleged incident. Police later informed her of that fact.

Lax also asked if Soqui’s tone was “friendly” during the time they were in the car together and she responded “not really.”

She had previously acknowledged during Michaels’ questioning that initially he was friendly as he entered her car and introduced himself as “Ryan” and asked her where she lived.

Lax asked Choi if Soqui ever threatened to hit her, and Choi said “no” and acknowledged that she pleaded with him not to hurt her.

Choi said that she was “so scared” when he first threatened her, but kept on driving.

When they pulled off the road in a neighborhood near Madonna and Los Osos Valley roads, she refused to go to the back seat as he told her to do because she feared for her safety, she said.

They then switched seats in the car so Soqui could drive, Choi testified. Soqui took her cell phone as well, she said. San Luis Obispo Police Department Detective Denise Richey testified that a witness in Arroyo Grande who saw Soqui and asked for a ride from a 7-11 store the night of Nov. 4 said the defendant told him he carjacked the Audi.

Police arrested Soqui on Nov. 6 in Santa Barbara County near the Gaviota Tunnel.

Soqui is due in court on April 15 for a further arraignment on the charges.