Trial begins in case of slain Oakland mother

Chyemil Pierce died in a shooting in West Oakland after shepherding her children to safety. A woman who authorities say sparked a large gunbattle that ended in her death has now been charged with murder.

An Alameda County prosecutor told jurors today that an argument between two groups of women on a West Oakland street in the middle of the afternoon two years ago led to a wild gun battle that claimed the life of a 30-year-old mother of three children.

In his opening statement in the trial of four men charged with murder for the shooting death of Chyemil Pierce in the 2800 block of Chestnut Street at about 4:45 p.m. on March 9, 2015, prosecutor Butch Ford said, "They turn West Oakland into a war zone and it doesn't matter who gets shot. They shoot at each other like it's the Wild West."

Ford said the incident began when two groups of women got into an argument and a subsequent fight on the street that escalated when one of the defendants, 31-year-old Jerry Harbin, arrived at the scene and pushed one of the combatants, 38-year-old Joneria Reed, to the ground.

The prosecutor alleged that Harbin "interjected himself into a girls' fight." Ford said Reed was angry and called her son, 22-year-old Dijon Ward, to ask him to come to the scene to back her up.

Ford said Ward then arrived with several associates who were armed with guns and their group, which is known as The Bottoms, got into a gun battle with Harbin's group, another West Oakland group known as "3rd World."

More than 30 shots were fired and one of the bullets struck Pierce in the right side of the back of her head and killed her, Ford said.

Pierce, who worked as a human resources specialist at Kaiser Permanente, wasn't involved in the argument and fight but had come to the area to bring two of her three children back to the home in the neighborhood where her family had lived for nearly 50 years, Ford said.

Pierce had heard the first gunshots and was rushing her two children into the house when she was struck, according to Ford.  "She died in front of her kids," he said.

Standing trial with Harbin on murder charges are Alex Davis, 27, Michael Stills, 23, and Anthony Sims, 21.

In addition, Sims faces an attempted murder charge for allegedly shooting at Harbin.

Reed and Ward had been scheduled to stand trial with those four men but two weeks ago Reed pleaded no contest to second-degree murder for her role in the case.

Her plea agreement calls for her to testify against the other defendants in the case and for her second-degree murder conviction to be reduced to voluntary manslaughter and for her to be sentenced to six years in custody if a judge determines that her testimony was truthful.

Ward pleaded no contest to a felony count of being an accessory after the fact for hiding a gun that one of the suspects allegedly used in the shooting.

Two other defendants, 31-year-old Shelton McDaniels, and 18-year-old Julian Ambrose, are expected to be prosecuted together later this year.

Defense attorneys for Harbin, Davis, Still and Sims will present their opening statements later today.