A man accused of killing an 8-year-old boy in a drive-by attack on a Pomona home pleaded not guilty Monday to murder and other felony charges.
Sengchan Houl, 35, also faces one count of shooting from a motor vehicle and four counts of shooting at an inhabited dwelling and a special circumstance allegation of murder committed while firing from a motor vehicle.
Prosecutors have yet to decide whether to pursue the death penalty. On Feb. 20, Jonah Hwang was with his family, visiting friends for dinner at a home in the 1100 block of West 11th Street, when shots were fired on the residence and he was struck by a bullet.
Prosecutors allege that Houl also fired shots at the same Pomona home on Jan. 27, March 7 and March 25.
Investigators identified the vehicle believed to have been used in all four shootings and, with the assistance of several agencies, arrested Houl the day after the fourth shooting. Police said he was picked up leaving his home with the firearm they believe was used in the attack.
A motive for the shootings was unclear. Police said the family hosting the dinner were the original owners of the residence and have since moved out. Police said the owners of the home were married school teachers with two children and had no gang ties.
"As a longtime police officer in this community, this is right up there with some of the more senseless acts of violence that we see as police officers," Pomona police Lt. Eddie Hernandez said the day after the shooting.
"This definitely can't go unpunished."
Hwang's family brought him home from a Taiwanese orphanage less than three years ago.
"He had an infectious smile and loved everyone and everything: sports, wrestling with his dad, running, laughing, superheroes,'' the family said in a statement posted on a GoFundMe page. "With his playful demeanor, he adapted almost immediately to life in the United States and became a full-blooded American in no time at all. Jonah was a light and joy in our household and we cannot imagine our family without him."
Houl is being held without bail and is due back in court on July 25, when a date is expected to be set for a preliminary hearing to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to proceed to trial.