Otay Mesa

Church's Chicken Shooting Suspect In Court As Eyewitnesses Describe Grisly Incident

Albert Lee Blake, 51, was in court Wednesday for a preliminary hearing to decide if he'll stand trial

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After hearing sometimes emotional testimony from eyewitnesses, a judge will decide whether there is enough evidence to hold the man accused of killing a Church’s Chicken employee over for trial.

Albert Lee Blake, 51, is charged with murder and attempted murder in the Nov. 6, 2019, shooting in Otay Mesa.

Maribel Ibanez, 28, was killed and two other employees were wounded after, prosecutors said, Blake attempted to use a counterfeit $100 bill. Blake was arrested more than two weeks later in Memphis Tenn.

At his preliminary hearing, the prosecutors called several eyewitnesses to the stand, including a 12-year-old girl who was inside the restaurant at the time of the shooting.

The girl, who is now 14, said she had just ordered food when a man standing behind her pulled a gun out from the hoodie he was wearing.

“I saw him pull it out and start shooting,” testified the girl, who the judge ordered the news media not to identify.

The girl’s mother was waiting in the parking lot for her daughter when she heard gunshots. The woman testified that she saw a man calmly walk outside and she immediately ran inside to find her daughter.

“I was just holding her because I thought she was dead," the woman testified. "Afterward, she called 911. I work in the medical field, so I went inside to see if everyone was OK, and there was just blood everywhere. I said, 'Is everyone OK?' and I just heard a bunch of people moaning and somebody said no."

The mother was among a few witnesses who were able to identify Blake in court as the shooter. Several others, though, said they never got a good look at the shooter because he was wearing a hoodie and sunglasses.

In court, the judge asked Blake several times to remove his face mask so witnesses could look at him.

Also testifying were a husband and wife who were waiting at the drive-thru window when the shooting occurred.

“We heard a couple of pops,’” said the man, who the judge ordered the media not to identify. "We looked inside the window but we didn’t know what it was. I just saw a guy holding up his arm. My wife could actually see him and she said, ‘Go, go, go.' "

When court ended on Wednesday, more testimony was expected on Thursday. 

Judge Garry Haehnle will then have to decide if there’s enough evidence to hold Blake over for trial. If convicted on murder and attempted murder charges, he faces 114 years to life in prison.

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