Forced at gunpoint to lie face down and then robbed: Templeton party victims testify in court

A bullet hole found at the scene of an alleged armed robbery during a house party in rural Templeton in July.
A bullet hole found at the scene of an alleged armed robbery during a house party in rural Templeton in July. Courtesy of the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office

Five men — ages 16 to 19 — rounded up a group of young adults at a Templeton house party at gunpoint and forced them to lie facedown in the backyard as they stole their cellphones, cash and car keys, according court testimony Wednesday.

Donovan James Alvord, 19, and Albert Charles Heinicke Jr., 18, were previously identified as suspects following their arrests in July. Prosecutors also are trying Levi Cody Mattson and Wyatt Douglas Warnars, both 17, and Marshal Ryan Kaplan, 16, as adults because of the seriousness of the charges.

The San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office filed a 34-page amended complaint against the five Wednesday, charging them with a total of 62 felonies, including kidnapping, first-degree residential burglary, home invasion robbery, criminal threats, assault with a deadly weapon, assault with a firearm and unlawfully taking a vehicle.

All five have pleaded not guilty to the charges.

According to the county Sheriff’s Office, on July 20 dispatchers received reports of a robbery about 3 a.m. at a home in the 4700 block of See Ranch Lane. The 911 caller said he and about 20 other teens and young adults were attending a house party.

Witnesses told police about five men entered a house wearing bandanas and hoodies, firing gunshots in the air and rounding up attendees to steal cellphones, wallets and other items from the victims at gunpoint. Three suspects were arrested after deputies on patrol located one of the stolen vehicles on Highway 46 with the men inside. Two others were later arrested.

In a standing-room-only courtroom Wednesday, Superior Court Judge John Trice heard testimony from deputies and a DA’s Office investigator, as well as party attendees. The preliminary hearing is expected to conclude Thursday, when Trice will rule if enough evidence exists to uphold all 62 charges and move the case toward trial.

On Wednesday, Deputy Chris Langston testified that he pulled over a BMW on Highway 46 with three of the defendants inside following the alleged robbery. A handgun was discovered under the driver’s seat, he said.

Langston also testified that several of the alleged victims told him during an interview that the suspects entered the home and forced the occupants into the backyard, ordering them to lie facedown and surrender their cellphones and keys. At least two victims were physically assaulted, and one witness told him they heard a gunshot come from the living room, he said.

DA’s Office lead investigator Hussein Abbas testified that several party attendees told him the suspects pointed guns at them during the robbery, but were unable to identify the suspects because their faces were covered. One victim gave the men about $500 in cash, Abbas said.

Under cross-examination by the defendants’ five attorneys, Abbas testified that the alleged victims didn’t know who fired the shots, or in which direction they were firing.

“Either this person was a really bad shot or he wasn’t trying to hit (the victim)?” Alvord’s attorney, Chris Casciola, asked Abbas, to an objection by Deputy District Attorney Lindsey Bittner.

Abbas said some of the alleged victims were able to flee the home and call 911.

Tobin Shea, a party attendee, testified that the party was still going on when he and a few friends fell asleep in a bedroom a little after midnight. He was awoken about 3 a.m. by a man in a bandana carrying a Smith & Wesson MP15 .22-caliber rifle, who told the occupants to go to the backyard, he said.

Shea testified that the females in the room asked to get dressed first, which the man denied, Shea said. Shea, however, told the man that he was going to put on a shirt, which he did, upsetting the suspect who fired a shot into the ceiling, Shea said.

Shea was led outside, where a second suspect pointed a handgun at his head, he said. Even though he was “literally looking down the barrel,” Shea, who shoots guns competitively, said he thought at first the handgun was a pellet gun.

“I told him, ‘You’re not going to shoot me with your pellet gun,’ ” Shea recalled. “Someone said, ‘Oh, we’ve got a tough guy here.’ 

Shea testified that he was forced to his knees and struck “extremely hard” in the back of the head, and felt blood stream down his face.

“I thought I had a fractured skull. I said, ‘I think I’m going to die — I need an ambulance,’ ” Shea testified. “They said, ‘We don’t give a (expletive) about your head.’ 

He ultimately handed over his wallet and a pocket knife.

Testimony is expected to continue Thursday.