OAKLAND, Calif. (KTVU) - Two men accused in a laptop theft at an Oakland coffee shop that claimed the life of a 34-year-old man appeared before a judge on Monday.
Byron Reed Jr., 22, of San Francisco and Javon Lee, 21 were charged on Friday for their roles in the death of 34-year-old Shuo Zeng.
Reed Jr. was charged with murder and special circumstance of committing murder during a robbery. If convicted he could face the death penalty. Lee was charged with involuntary manslaughter and both men were charged with second-degree robbery.
Reed's family believes he has nothing to do with the incident that took place last Tuesday around 11:30 a.m. at a Starbucks in Oakland's Montclair neighborhood.
Reed's sister, Shaquila Reed, said her brother has an alibi and claims he was at home with her daughter at the time of the crime.
Investigators said Zeng was inside the cafe working on his laptop when one of the suspects walked up and took it.
Witnesses said that's when Zeng ran out of the coffee shop and chased after his stolen laptop. But when he caught up with the suspects' BMV, the vehicle took off and he ended up getting hit by the SUV.
He was transported to a local hospital with critical injuries where he died on his 34th birthday.
Authorities said Reed was the alleged getaway driver of the BMV and Lee was the one who took Zeng's laptop.
"He (doesn't) deserve this. My brother was not there," Shaquila said after the suspects' first court appearance on Friday. Adding, "My brother is there for me all the time and now they want to take him from me. That's not fair."
Outside of Monday's court hearing, Reed's Aunt Terresa Jones expressed condolences to the victim's family but she believes her nephew is innocent.
"My heart goes out to the family of the victim," she said. "I can't even imagine what they're going through but my prayers go up for them, every day since the day I heard of that."
However, Jones maintains that Reed was babysitting his niece as Shaquila claims.
"As far as my understanding, he wasn't there at the time. My niece said he was at home babysitting her child and I'm going to stand on her word," Jones said.
She said Zeng should have never lost his life over a laptop, but also said robbery victims shouldn't fight back.
"Let the person take whatever. Don't be a superhero," Jones said. "If anybody's in any type of situation, if anybody tries to rob you, please give them your possessions."
She said she knows what it feels like to lose a family member.
Jones' mother, Cynthia Alonzo, was killed by her boyfriend Eric Mora in 2004. Mora pleaded guilty to manslaughter but her body has never been found.
Zeng was a research scientist at Aspera in Emeryville. On Sunday, hundreds of people turned out for a community memorial to remember his life.
Aspera co-founder Michelle Munson said, "I can assure you the day that he was killed here, he was working on his work as he always did and he certainly did not in vain.
Both Reed and Lee are expected to be back in court late January to enter pleas.