Shooting death basketball
Claudell Garland Walter. Photo credit: Screen shot, abc7.com

The prosecution is expected to rest early next week in the trial of a convicted felon accused of gunning down a Riverside County basketball coach who traveled to youth events throughout Southern California.

Claudell Garland Walter, 38, of Menifee, died in June 2019, allegedly at the hands of Othelon Dale Lyons of Los Angeles.

Lyons, being held without bail, is charged with first-degree murder and a special-circumstance allegation of lying in wait. A motive in the case remains unclear.

Trial testimony got underway last week, and the prosecution is expected to call its last witnesses by Tuesday at the Southwest Justice Center in Murrieta.

According to the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office, Lyons, allegedly a drug trafficker, may have mistakenly targeted Walter, described by the defendant in jail conversations as a thief who stole supplies.

“Claudell Walter was a well-respected local youth basketball coach,” according to a trial brief filed by the DA’s office. “He frequently traveled to youth basketball tournaments throughout Riverside, Orange and San Diego counties. His friends and family deny any knowledge of Claudell being involved in any illegal activity of any kind.”

According to the prosecution, in May 2019, Lyons began five days of surveillance on the victim, even attaching a GPS tracking device to the underside of Walter’s Chevrolet Silverado pickup. The device loaded real-time information on the victim’s movements to the defendant’s mobile phone, prosecutor Marcus Garrett alleged.

On the night of June 1, Lyons allegedly drove to the victim’s residence and waited for Walter to return from a basketball tournament in Garden Grove.

The victim and his 13-year-old son stopped for fast food at a nearby restaurant before returning home in the truck at about 10 p.m.

Garrett said a neighbor’s video camera showed a man walking southbound across Walter’s street to his driveway, where he hid behind the bed of the truck.

“Immediately after Claudell opened his truck door, the man quickly sprang from his concealed location, shot Claudell twice in the chest (with a 9mm pistol) and ran northbound in the opposite direction,” Garrett wrote.

The victim’s son bolted inside the house to call 911, and paramedics took Walter to a hospital where he died a short time later.

Detectives were able to garner other evidence from surveillance video, including images of the Ford Explorer that the defendant allegedly fled in, according to the prosecution.

The investigation, though, took several months before detectives procured sufficient evidence to identify the defendant as the alleged shooter. They arrested Lyons in December 2019.

Investigators collected additional evidence from conversations Lyons allegedly had with several inmates, according to the DA’s brief.

The defendant’s statements, prosecutors said, including references to cleaning ammunition to remove fingerprints and use of the phone for monitoring the GPS device on the victim’s pickup. Lyons, though, never directly implicated himself in the actual killing, according to the prosecution.

When fellow inmates asked about a motive, Lyons replied, “He took some (expletive). He took a lot of it, dude,” according to the brief.

In the court papers, attorneys contend that Lyons also trafficked cocaine. In June 2018, he was allegedly involved in the sale of 1,000 kilograms of cocaine, in a transaction initiated by a federal informant, resulting in suspects, including the defendant, being arrested by U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents.

That case had yet to be decided when the Menifee killing occurred. Lyons also has a prior conviction in Kern County for spousal abuse, according to court records.

– City News Service