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Preliminary hearing begins for Tri-Valley man charged after police standoff

San Ramon resident faces three counts of attempted murder stemming from September incident in Norris Canyon Estates

A key pretrial hearing has begun for the San Ramon man accused of shooting at property-management reps and a sheriff's deputy during an eviction attempt late last summer.

Attorneys on both sides questioned a trio of prosecution witnesses -- including the property manager shot during the Sept. 18 incident -- in Contra Costa County Superior Court in Martinez on Friday before the proceedings adjourned for the weekend.

Mike Nabil Ghoneim has pleaded not guilty to three counts of attempted murder and denied special allegations related to gun use and causing great bodily injury to the lone shooting victim during the incident that incited a nearly four-hour police standoff inside the gated community of Norris Canyon Estates.

Prosecutors allege Ghoneim, 42, fired a shot through his front door while a locksmith was drilling the lock during the attempted eviction at the estimated $1.6 million house on Ashbourne Circle.

"The loudest noise I've ever heard," Eugene Spencer, who was shot in the left thigh, said of the gunfire. "Like someone dropped a four-drawer file (cabinet) full of papers on a marble floor."

Spencer, who walked with a noticeable limp to and from the witness stand, testified that has three scars, frequent leg pain and bullet fragments inside his body as a result of the shooting.

Under cross-examination, Spencer said he recalled a deputy announcing, "sheriff's department," when the group first approached the front door that afternoon, but he couldn't remember whether a deputy knocked on the door or who gave the locksmith the initial OK to start drilling.

Defense counsel David Goldstein, who represents Ghoneim, challenged the notion that the incident was precipitated by a proper eviction attempt.

On Sept. 18, Spencer was joined outside the Ashbourne Circle house by the locksmith, a real estate agent, a Contra Costa County Sheriff's Office sergeant and a sheriff's deputy, according to prosecutors.

Spencer was the only one of the quintet to testify thus far in Ghoneim's preliminary hearing. The other prosecution witnesses Friday were a pair of detectives who gave details from their interviews with two of the eyewitnesses.

Prosecutor Angela Lyddan is expected to call her final witness when the hearing reconvenes Monday. She has yet to present evidence indicating how law enforcement identified Ghoneim as the shooter.

Sheriff's officials announced at the time that Ghoneim was the lone person inside the house and that he surrendered only after the SWAT team lobbed tear gas into the home.

Wearing a yellow jail uniform, a bespectacled and clean-shaven Ghoneim showed little emotion in the courtroom, primarily looking down and writing on a legal pad throughout Friday's proceedings, which lasted a little more than three hours.

Ghoneim remains in custody at the Martinez Detention Facility with bail set at $3 million.

Judge Thomas M. Maddock scheduled the preliminary hearing to continue on Monday morning.

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