SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A witness today testified today that a woman was drunk and belligerent before she allegedly dragged a co-worker to his death with her vehicle in Kearny Mesa.
The testimony came in a preliminary hearing that will determine whether Latisha Ingram, 33, will be held to answer to charges of second-degree murder, gross vehicular manslaughter, driving under the influence and hit-and- run causing death in connection with the June 27 death of 25-year-old Ha Minh Ta.
Prosecutors say Ingram and Ta met up with other co-workers for after- dinner drinks and the defendant, allegedly against the advice of friends, decided to try and drive home. She allegedly got into an argument with Ta about 11:30 p.m. in a parking lot in the 4600 block of Convoy Street, and started to drive away while he was still holding onto her car.
Ingram drove out of the parking lot and turned southbound onto Convoy Street, where Ta let go and was run over by the defendant, according to San Diego police and prosecutors. Paramedics rushed Ta to a hospital, where he died from his injuries. Ingram was arrested a short time later. According to prosecutors, her blood-alcohol concentration was .18, more than twice the legal limit.
Ingram has a 2011 misdemeanor DUI conviction in Orange County. If convicted on the new charges, she faces 15 years to life in prison. Santee resident Gabriela Rojo, then a co-worker of Ingram and Ta at a Bank of America branch, at times fought back tears as she recounted what happened that night. Rojo said Ingram, Ta and another co-worker went to the Crab Hut restaurant in Kearny Mesa after an especially hard day at work.
"We were all getting yelled at by our clients,'' Rojo said. Rojo said she assumed they'd only be out for two hours, as she had some things to do at home. Along with a meal at the Crab Hut, they also ordered drinks, she said. Rojo adding that both she and Ingram drank several beers, along with one shot each of tequila and whiskey.
Rojo, who described Ta as a close co-worker, said he paid the entire restaurant tab and wouldn't take any money from her. Rojo said she had beers with less alcohol content than the ones Ingram drank. Ta and the other co-worker also consumed alcoholic beverages, Rojo said.
After a few hours, the group decided to go to O'Brien's, a popular bar on Convoy Street, after attempting to get some ice cream, the witness said. Ingram said a former Bank of America co-worker was at the bar, and so they could visit her. Ingram seemed "very drunk'' outside of the Crab Hut, Rojo said, adding she offered to pay for an Uber ride for Ingram.
"I didn't want her to drink and drive,'' she testified. While outside of O'Brien's, Ingram went and "sat on some guy's lap,'' Rojo said. She said she tried to pull Ingram away from the man, but "she didn't let me.''
Inside the bar, Rojo saw Ingram sitting on a table with three drinks and told her it was "time to go home,'' because Ingram was "not having fun anymore.'' However, Rojo said Ingram insisted they wait for the former co-worker, who never showed up. Rojo said she wanted to text Ingram's roommate and ask her to pick up Ingram.
Then, Ingram seemed angry and yelled, "I'm going home, just leave me the (expletive) alone,'' the witness testified. When Ingram sat down in her grey Mercedes-Benz, Rojo said she thought Ingram was waiting for a ride. Rojo said at one point, Ingram pushed her and Ta responded, "Leave her alone, she's too aggressive. Let me talk to her. He told me to walk away.''
Ta approached Ingram's vehicle in the parking lot, but she "backed up, almost to me,'' Rojo said. When Ingram began driving, Ta "moved with the car, like he was stuck,'' Rojo said, adding that she saw Ta between the car door and the vehicle.
Rojo testified that she yelled at Ta to let go of the door, but after Ingram put the car in reverse and then drove forward toward Convoy Street, he was still holding on. The tires screeched and Ta was trying to catch his balance, but "he couldn't do that,'' Rojo said.
After Ingram turned right onto Convoy and drove away, Rojo said she walked over and saw Ta in the road. "He died right there,'' Rojo said, adding that paramedics and law enforcement arrived a few minutes later. Rojo said she felt "heartbroken.''
She added that Ingram returned to the scene and then called Rojo a liar and insisted Rojo killed Ta. "Gabby, Gabby, (expletive) you, you're a liar,'' Rojo said Ingram told her. "It looked like she didn't care. She just kept looking down.''
During cross-examination, Rojo described her working relationship with Ingram, her supervisor from April to June, as professional. "I liked her; she always had my back,'' Rojo said. However, Rojo said others told her to avoid Ingram because she "always partied.''
When asked by defense attorney Monique Carter why she went out with Ingram that night, Rojo said "Ingram was my friend, and Ha always told me to `make your (work) connections.'''
Carter also asked Rojo about her own alcohol consumption, but Rojo said she was careful and knew her limits. During the hearing, the prosecution played a cell phone video showing Ingram driving off with Ta holding onto the car. The man who taped the video, Joshua Bautista, said it looked like Ta was trying to pull a woman out of the Mercedes.
"I thought it was a love triangle gone wrong,'' Bautista, who was actually driving for Uber that night. San Diego police officer Douglas Flores testified that he was dispatched to the scene and asked Ingram some questions after she returned, but she wasn't "giving proper information.''