Testimony Begins in Trial of Felons Accused of Robbing, Killing Store Clerk

City News Service Pristine Villarreal

MURRIETA (CNS) – Testimony got underway Thursday in the trial of two convicted felons accused in the slaying of a Riverside convenience store clerk during an all-night robbery spree nearly three years ago.

John Lamont Bush, 33, of Los Angeles allegedly gunned down 28-year-old Waqar Tanveer of Fontana in 2020. Bush’s alleged cohort was Roderick Lamar Grandison, 50, of Compton.

Both men are charged with first-degree murder, three counts of armed robbery, three counts of gun assault, as well as one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm. Bush alone is charged with a special circumstance allegation of killing in the course of a robbery, as well as sentence-enhancing gun and great bodily injury allegations.

A third co-defendant, 36-year-old Marleiya Onshel Barnes of Moreno Valley, pleaded guilty in 2021 to three counts of armed robbery and was sentenced to 15 years in state prison.

Following a week of jury selection at the Southwest Justice Center in Murrieta, Riverside County Superior Court Judge Stephen Gallon seated a panel to hear the matter, after which the prosecution and defense made opening statements, and the prosecution summoned its first witnesses.

According to a trial brief filed by the District Attorney’s Office, Barnes, Bush and Grandison got together in the predawn hours of Feb. 28, 2020, with the intent of perpetrating robberies targeting convenience stores in Riverside County.

With Barnes at the wheel of her sedan, their first stop was a 7-Eleven on Fourth Street in Perris, prosecutors alleged.

At 1:35 a.m., Bush allegedly entered the store, prepared himself a cup of coffee, then went to the counter as if to pay, but instead pulled a compact semiautomatic pistol from his pocket and leveled at the clerk, identified in court documents only as “S.S.” The defendant demanded that the victim open the cash drawer, which he did, and Bush snatched $400 cash, the brief alleged.

An hour later, the trio headed to a 7-Eleven on Sunnymead Boulevard in Moreno Valley, where Grandison entered, acting as though he wanted to purchase cigarettes, according to the prosecution. When the clerk, identified only as “A.K.,” walked over to retrieve a pack for the defendant, Grandison “removed a small pistol from the front of his sweater and pointed it at the victim,” court papers stated.

Grandison allegedly forced the clerk to open the two cash registers at gunpoint, racking the slide on the handgun and telling him, “I’ll shoot you,” according to the brief.

The man handed over an undisclosed amount of cash, and the defendant fled, prosecutors said.

At 3:15 a.m., the trio drove to the 7-Eleven at 6692 Indiana Ave. in Riverside, where Bush went inside, armed with the same compact pistol he allegedly used in the first holdup, according to the brief.

Tanveer was at the register and asked whether he could help the defendant as he approached the sales counter. The ensuing interaction was captured entirely by security surveillance videotape, according to the D.A.’s office.

“(Bush) then produced (his) handgun from his sweatshirt,” the brief said. “After pointing the gun at the clerk, he jumped over the counter. Once on the other side of the counter, (Bush) and Tanveer had a physical struggle. At 3:17 a.m., the (defendant) uses his right hand and raises the gun and points at the face of Tanveer. Tanveer then drops to the ground. A pool of blood begins forming under Tanveer. The (defendant) then reaches into the cash registers and grabs money and leaves the store.”

A customer walked into the store a short time later and discovered the victim mortally wounded. He was pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics.

Riverside police detectives and sheriff’s investigators immediately initiated a joint investigation, and after learning of the holdup earlier in Moreno Valley, sheriff’s personnel obtained images from Moreno Valley’s Citywide Camera System, using video to identify the alleged getaway car driven by Barnes, according to court papers.

After confirming the car belonged to her, detectives tracked down the defendant and arrested her without incident a few days later. During interviews with investigators, Barnes “admitted that she drove her two friends … to the various robberies,” according to the brief.

Based on that information, detectives procured arrest warrants for Barnes and Grandison, who were taken into custody within a week

During a recorded jailhouse conversation, Bush allegedly acknowledged fatally shooting Tanveer, but insisted that he only opened fire after the victim grabbed his throat during the holdup and tried to “choke him out,” court papers stated.

According to court records, Bush and Grandison have prior felony convictions in another jurisdiction, but the offenses weren’t listed.

Both defendants are being held at the Byrd Detention Center in Murrieta — Bush without bail, and Grandison in lieu of $1 million bail.

Copyright 2023, City News Service, Inc.

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