Tri-Valley man held to answer for attempted murder

Details of defendant's police interview revealed during preliminary hearing

A San Ramon man has been ordered to stand trial for attempted murder and other charges for allegedly firing a shotgun through his front door during an eviction attempt last September.

Judge Thomas M. Maddock held defendant Mike Nabil Ghoneim to answer for the allegations Monday following a nearly six-hour preliminary hearing in Contra Costa County Superior Court in Martinez.

The judge said he believed Ghoneim engaged in "reckless conduct" with the "intent to harm someone," based on the evidence he heard during the key pretrial hearing, which spanned two days.

Ghoneim, 42, has denied wrongdoing in connection with the Sept. 18 incident during which a property manager was shot and at least two others, including a sheriff's deputy assigned to the eviction, narrowly escaped the gunfire.

The shooting led to a nearly four-hour police standoff outside Ghoneim's house in the gated community of Norris Canyon Estates in unincorporated San Ramon. Authorities said Ghoneim surrendered only after tear gas was lobbed inside the Ashbourne Circle home, which was reportedly in foreclosure.

Ghoneim admitted firing his shotgun once that afternoon, but said it was intended as a "warning shot" above the front door because he feared someone was trying to break into his home, according to Contra Costa County Sheriff's Det. Daniel Sosa, who testified about Ghoneim's post-arrest interview with investigators.

The single shot occurred while a locksmith, reportedly at the behest of law enforcement, worked to drill out the front door lock.

The property manager and a sheriff's deputy were also right outside the door when the shot was fired, and a real estate agent and sheriff's sergeant were in front of the house as well, according to investigators.

Several eyewitnesses said they heard a sheriff's official announce law enforcement's presence at the beginning of the eviction attempt, but Ghoneim denied ever hearing anyone identify themselves, according to prosecution witnesses.

Ghoneim told authorities he shouted "back down, back down" after hearing two loud bangs and the sound of drilling at his front door, but when lock-drilling continued, he grabbed his shotgun and fired the "warning shot" from the second-floor landing overlooking the door, according to Sosa.

The defendant said he refused to cooperate with law enforcement during the ensuing standoff "because proper eviction procedures were not followed," the detective said.

Defense counsel David Goldstein argued Ghoneim didn't intend to kill anyone and the eviction attempt was conducted improperly.

Prosecutor Angela Lyddan contended that the eviction was lawful and that by firing a shotgun through the closed door, Ghoneim intended to bring serious harm to anyone on the other side.

In the end, the judge found the prosecution met its burden of proof with the first two counts of attempted murder, which pertained to the locksmith and the injured property manager.

Maddock reduced the third felony count from attempted murder of a peace officer to attempted murder of a person after determining the prosecution hadn't presented enough evidence to show Ghoneim should have known there was a deputy outside the door.

The judge also held Ghoneim to answer for three special allegations of personally using a firearm and one allegation of causing great bodily injury to property manager Eugene Spencer, who was shot in the leg.

Ghoneim remains in custody at the Martinez Detention Facility. His bail decreased to $2 million on Monday after the judge lowered the amount by $1 million in light of reducing the charge of attempted murder of a peace officer.

The defendant is scheduled to return to court Jan. 31 for arraignment.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by John
a resident of Danville
on Jan 14, 2014 at 10:02 am

This guy sounds like a black helicopter wackjob.

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Louise
a resident of Danville
on Jan 14, 2014 at 3:56 pm

Contrary to comment about black helicopters, this guy is someone who refused to accept reality. He is one of the entitled that the administration supports and encourages. Sounds more like Occupy Wall Street mentality to me. He did not pay his mortgage and the authorities were doing what was lawful. Trying to get possession of the property that no longer belonged to the occupant. He was ticked off and used a weapon against those who were doing their job. Sounds like his anger and stupidity got the best of him and now he will have to pay for the rest of his life. He will now have an arrest record. Not a smart move. But many will blame the greedy banks for the foreclosure and not the person who borrowed the money for the loan, did not pay his obligation and then got foreclosed on.

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Ann Richards
a resident of Danville
on Jan 17, 2014 at 6:26 am

i agree with Louise.It appears that people are no longer accountable for their decisions and actions. No one forced this man to buy the house. Many people lose homes, jobs, fortunes, and they make a decision: either blame the system, or pull up their socks and start afresh and walk proud with the experience and knowledge they gained. The authorities don't suddenly knock on your door in the middle of the night to evict you. There was plenty of time to assess, and take alternate action, make other plans, reach out to friends, family, the social safety net, whatever. What a foolish and dangerous decision this man made.Luckily no one was injured, or worse, killed.

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