A 26-year-old Huntington Beach man was convicted Thursday of shooting at a Costa Mesa police officer and breaking into two homes, then giving up after a 40-minute standoff.
Jurors deliberated for about three hours before convicting Korrell Santana Kybor Cole of attempted murder of a police officer, assault with a semiautomatic gun on a peace officer, burglary and falsely representing himself as a police officer, all felonies, while finding true sentencing enhancements for the discharge of a gun and personal use of a gun. Jurors acquitted him of one count of burglary and a count of grand theft was dismissed during the trial.
The “one-man crime spree” began when Cole engaged in “one egregious act after another” on Jan. 30, 2016, as he attempted to elude police, said Deputy District Attorney Matthew Plunkett.
“This really is a case about a one-man crime spree,” the prosecutor said in his opening statement. “It unfolds over a couple of hours.”
Cole’s attorney, Jeremy Goldman, said his client “never intended to hurt anybody… His intention was always to evade arrest and he never intended to harm anybody.”
Cole was wanted on a warrant at the time, according to court records.
The prosecutor said Cole was driving a taxi cab that was struck by another vehicle at the San Diego (405) Freeway off-ramp at Harbor Boulevard the morning of the crime wave. The accident was not his fault, but Cole walked away from the collision.
A short distance from the accident, a Costa Mesa police officer spotted Cole walking with another man and ordered them to stop, but he was “uncooperative” until the officer threatened him with a stun gun, Plunkett said.
Cole sat still for just five seconds before running off, leading the officer on a fence-jumping chase until he lost sight of the suspect, Plunkett said.
Costa Mesa police Officer Anthony Reitz eyed Cole near Pepper Tree Lane and Royal Palm Drive and yelled out of his squad car at Cole to stop, Plunkett said.
A woman who was double-parked in a vehicle nearby was expected to testify that she saw Cole pull out a Glock handgun and fire a shot in the direction of Reitz in his patrol car, the prosecutor said. The bullet ended up in a Ford Ranger, he said.
Cole then ran to neighboring residences on Royal Palm Drive. The first home he broke into was unoccupied at the time, but the residents, Alfred and Winnie Lau, returned home about 11:45 a.m. after the defendant had grabbed a purse inside, Plunkett alleged.
When Alfred Lau confronted Cole in the garage, Cole claimed to be a police officer and assured the couple that he was Vietnamese and that they were safe, Plunkett said. Alfred Lau suspected otherwise, however, when he saw Cole’s gun, so the couple ran away, he said.
Cole then ran into an unoccupied neighboring home and took 10 rings, watches, cash and keys to a BMW, Plunkett said. He said Cole tried to flee in the BMW, but was trapped almost immediately in a perimeter the officers had established.
After about 40 minutes of negotiating with police, Cole surrendered, Plunkett said.
Goldman said his client was not at fault in the traffic collision because the other driver ran a red light, but did the wrong thing in walking away from the crash scene.
“He was not in Costa Mesa looking for trouble,” Goldman said. “He did not impersonate a police officer… But, more importantly, he did not attempt to murder anyone.”
Cole’s “one clear intent” was “to evade arrest,” Goldman told the jury. “You don’t have to like it, or agree with it. He made a lot of mistakes that day… But your job is to decide what he’s responsible for and what he’s not responsible for.”
Cole opened fire over the front of the witnesses’ vehicle and behind the officer’s squad car, his attorney said.
“It was basically a shot to get their attention and let him go,” Goldman said. “He didn’t stop to fire more shots… If he wanted to kill Officer Reitz… he had the opportunity… But he didn’t intend to kill Officer Reitz. He didn’t intend to kill anybody.”
Cole also faces a sentencing-enhancement allegation of committing a crime while out of custody on a separate case. He is scheduled to be sentenced April 10 and faces at least 35 years to life in prison. He is also awaiting trial on his other cases.
He has a lengthy criminal history and has pending cases dating back to 2012, when he was charged with several counts of burglary for his alleged role in what Fullerton police characterized as a “ransack residential burglary” ring in Orange County.
He also faces pending cases of assault and battery from last year and possession of a deadly weapon by a prisoner.