The preliminary hearing for a Garden City man charged in connection with a fatal motorcycle crash in October 2017 was continued Thursday so the prosecution can secure a key witness.
The hearing for Bashir Omar, who is charged with second-degree murder, reckless driving and driving under the influence in the death of 67-year-old Robert Becker, of Garden City, was rescheduled for 9 a.m. April 30 in room 202 of the Finney County Courthouse.
Omar, 32, was present with his attorney, Lucy Douglass, of Garden City, and interpreter Zakk Malik, of Wichita.
Omar, a Somali immigrant who speaks little to no English, has been in the Finney County Jail since October after undergoing a mental evaluation at Larned State Hospital. The evaluation and issues finding and scheduling translators for Omar have long delayed the case.
A competency hearing for Omar was held Feb. 5, after which Chief District Judge Robert Frederick ruled the defendant was competent to stand trial and scheduled the preliminary hearing.
Assistant Finney County Attorney Kristi Cott requested the most recent continuance because the prosecution was unable to subpoena a witness who will be out of the state for work as a long-haul truck driver until April 1.
“We’re only going to continue (the preliminary hearing) one time. That’s it. So, you tell me when I should be looking for a day that nobody’s going to be walking in here with an excuse … ” Frederick said Thursday, before rescheduling the hearing.
Douglass said in a separate interview after the hearing that the witness is Mursal Naleye, founder of the African Community Center in Garden City. He helped interpret for Omar when police questioned him soon after the crash.
The witness is “necessary to go forward with the preliminary hearing” and “essential to the case,” Cott told Frederick, who said he understood that the witness is “key” in determining Omar’s “state of mind” at the time of the crash.
“This case has changed significantly since we first received the initial affidavit,” Cott said in court Thursday.
For instance, Cott said, evidence she and Assistant Finney County Attorney Brian Sherwood expected to uncover through blood tests from Omar did not come to fruition. Because of this, she said, it is unlikely the state will proceed with the DUI charge, though she added that no charges will be changed until the preliminary hearing.
Douglass said in a separate interview that, as the investigation has progressed, not all the original beliefs or conclusions, including some things expressed in the affidavit or shared with the public, have been supported by evidence. She didn't elaborate.
Omar is accused of rear-ending Becker’s motorcycle with his jeep, causing fatal injuries to Becker.
Garden City police said Omar showed signs of impairment the night of the crash. Omar told police he was intoxicated from alcohol and something similar to the stimulant betel nuts, which are found in parts of east Africa and Asia, according to the arrest affidavit.
According to the affidavit, Omar told police he saw Becker’s motorcycle before the crash but that it “stopped suddenly,” and that he did not take his foot off the accelerator. He told police the incident was “the will of God,” according to the affidavit.
Contact Amber Friend at firstname.lastname@example.org.