Year in Review: Shooting death of teen sparked outcry

cpride@losbanosenterprise.comDecember 27, 2013 

The shooting death of a teen became a monthslong saga in 2013 as law enforcement worked to sort out whether the shooter would be arrested.

Protests, pleas to the City Council to seek justice and suspicion of favorable treatment because of the shooter’s ties to law enforcement mixed together as the investigation proceeded

The man who shot 17-year-old Bidal Taito on July 20 at a Los Banos home did not face criminal charges. Instead, in September, Merced County District Attorney Larry Morse II filed felony robbery and burglary charges against two male teenagers who were with Taito the night he died. Prosecutors believe Taito, along with suspects Brandon Lippincott, 18, and a 15-year-old male, were attempting to burglarize the residence on West K Street, when the resident fatally shot Taito.

Morse and law enforcement did not release the name of the shooter, citing he was the intended target of the attempted burglary.

Lippincott and the juvenile were charged with conspiracy to commit robbery, attempted robbery and first-degree burglary after an investigation by Los Banos police and California Department of Justice.

Morse said Lippincott and the 15-year-old were with Taito in an alley near the 100 block of West K Street on July 20.

According to prosecutors’ version of events, a Los Banos police detective determined the trio met at Taito’s residence earlier that day and planned the burglary of the West K Street home.

During the meeting, Lippincott allegedly produced a loaded .22-caliber semi-automatic pistol. The detective reported Lippincott and Taito donned one glove each to handle the pistol. A video surveillance camera filmed Lippincott and the other juvenile “casing” the residence, Morse said.

The three met again that evening and went to the West K Street residence. The occupant of the West K Street residence arrived home moments before the three juveniles approached the house.

The resident, who’s only been identified as a relative of a former Los Banos police employee, later told police he was startled by banging on the outside of his house. When he looked toward his front door from his bedroom, he saw someone trying to enter his front door.

He grabbed his cellphone, his .40-caliber handgun and called 911.

As he was on the phone, he saw an intruder enter his home. “Lippincott went in first, and he must have discovered someone was home. Taito went in second,” Morse said.

Lippincott had turned to leave the home, and the occupant saw Taito walking through the door. The occupant saw Taito wearing a black hoodie, and also thought he was holding an object. Taito turned to leave, and the occupant of the home fired.

Three bullets went through the door, and Taito was struck once in the lower right side of his back. Morse said Taito was in the area near the door jam, on the front stoop of the home when he was hit.

He fled into the adjacent alley, dropping his gloves and a cellphone, according to the district attorney’s office. The .22-caliber pistol was found on the ground a short distance away. Taito collapsed in the alley and died at a Modesto hospital shortly after 1 a.m.

The district attorney’s office considered pressing charges against Taito’s shooter, but Morse said the evidence would likely not result in a conviction.

“(Taito) was hit on the threshold of the door or just beyond the door,” Morse said. “It’s a dangerous game, and you put your life on the line when you enter somebody’s home. There isn’t a jury in North America that will convict somebody for defending their home.”

Taito’s loved ones staged several protests in the weeks following the teen’s death. Even after Morse announced the shooter would not be prosecuted, Taito’s friends and family questioned law enforcement’s version of the shooting.

Enterprise reporter Corey Pride can be reached at (209) 388-6563 or by email at cpride@losbanosenterprise.com.

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