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Murder case in limbo: Man accused of killing popular Oakland youth mentor is mentally incompetent, attorney says

Murder case in limbo: Man accused of killing popular Oakland youth mentor is mentally incompetent, attorney says

OAKLAND — Criminal proceedings are being suspended over the killing of a popular youth mentor and coach, so that a mental health professional can evaluate the accused killer, court records show.

At a September court hearing, the deputy public defender for 39-year-old Daniel Stith openly declared a doubt to Stith’s mental competence for trial, kicking off a legal process where a psychiatrist must now evaluate Stith and report her findings to a judge. Stith was not present for the hearing, having refused to leave his Santa Rita Jail cell, according to court documents.

Stith was charged in 2021 with killing Concord resident Reuben Lewis III, 37, at a football practice attended by more than 100 people and children at Concordia Park in Oakland. Lewis was a former AAU basketball coach, and the community responded to his death with a huge outpouring of grief, including a vigil attended by then-Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and then-police Chief LeRonne Armstrong.

Questions have been raised about Stith’s mental state at the time of the Feb. 24, 2021 shooting since Stith’s preliminary hearing last year, where the bizarre circumstances during and after the shooting were publicly revealed. A resident of nearby Greenly Drive testified that Stith showed up to her home after the shooting, stripped naked, left an envelope with $900 there and told her to call the police.

“‘I think I killed someone. I killed someone, I killed someone,” Stith told her, she testified. Hours later, he turned himself in at the San Leandro Police Department.

Others who were present for the shooting testified that Stith — a youth football coach and rapper who used the stage name Danny from Sobrante — seemed “off” at the practice. Judge Morris Jacobson said his behavior suggested “some level of an episode of mental illness,” but held Stith to answer on charges of murder and being a felon in possession of a firearm, court records show.

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Stith’s behavior at the jail has been irrational too, according to court records. In August 2021, he was charged with a felony for allegedly punching Alameda County Sheriff’s Deputy Troy Olson inside the Santa Rita Jail. The probable cause statement alleges Stith punched the deputy without provocation or warning on April 25, 2021, loosening three teeth in the deputy’s jawline.

If Stith is found mentally incompetent for court, it will commence a legal and medical process that is notoriously slow in California. He’ll be ordered transferred from the jail to a mental institution — despite a statewide backlog and hospital bed shortage that often leaves people lingering in their cells for months — where doctors will attempt to “restore” his sanity.

Once a criminal defendant’s mental competence has been returned, he or she is once again brought back to jail and the criminal proceedings pick up where they left off.