PITTSBURG -- A Contra Costa Superior Court judge briefly shut down her courtroom Monday as sheriff's deputies broke up an altercation between the families of victims and defendants in an Antioch-area murder case, a prosecutor said.

The disturbance occurred in the hallway of the Superior Court in Pittsburg before the start of a plea hearing for three alleged San Francisco gang members charged with murdering San Francisco residents Christopher Zinn, 24, and Brieanna Dow, 21, on Oct. 14 on Buchanan Road in unincorporated Contra Costa County, just west of the Antioch city limit.

Deputy district attorney Mary Knox said she was among those who were locked in Judge Theresa Canepa's courtroom for about 10 minutes while deputies separated two groups of people who could be heard shouting at each other in the hallway.

Once court resumed, the defendants -- Reginald Whitley, 31, Lamar Michaels, 25, and Sheldon Silas, 24 -- postponed entering their plea until Nov. 21.

Zinn was a member of the same Bayview-Hunters Point gang as the defendants and was killed, along with his girlfriend, because they suspected he was a snitch, according to Knox.

The prosecutor said Zinn and Dow were running from an apartment complex and chased by the defendants, traveling in two cars, before being shot numerous times. The shootings occurred just before 5:30 p.m. and were witnessed by commuters on Buchanan Road, Knox said.

Whitley, Michaels and Silas are each charged with two counts of murder as well as charge enhancements alleging firearm use and that the killings were committed for the benefit of a criminal street gang. All three men are jailed without bail.


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Contact Malaika Fraley at 925-234-1684. Follow her at Twitter.com/malaikafraley.