Wednesday, October 27, 2010
A young man accused of firing a shotgun into a Clairemont park, killing a 15-year-old girl, must stand trial on murder and other charges, a judge ruled today.
Luis Francisco Barron, 19, is charged in connection with the Aug. 27 shooting that took the life of Joanna Vargas.
After a preliminary hearing that lasted into a second day, Judge Charles Rogers also ordered the defendant to stand trial on an assault with a firearm charge for an incident that happened before the fatal shooting near City Heights.
At the end of the hearing, Deputy Public Defender David Thompson unsuccessfully argued that Barron had no intent to kill and therefore should not be held for trial on the murder charge.
Thompson said neither Barron nor the three friends riding in his girlfriend's SUV knew anyone was in Lindbergh Park when he allegedly fired the round.
Barron said he "freaked out" when he realized he may have shot someone, Thompson told the judge.
But Deputy District Attorney Jill DiCarlo said the defendant "shot right at the people he did see." DiCarlo said Barron made a choice to shoot into a park in a residential neighborhood on a summer night about 1:20 a.m.
"That is a conscious disregard for human life," the prosecutor said.
She said all of Barron's actions that night showed he wanted to harm someone.
Rogers ruled there was probable cause to believe that Barron was guilty.
"This case involves a terrible tragedy," the judge said. "The senseless death of a lovely young woman."
Anthony Mendoza testified Tuesday that he thought Barron and his girlfriend were giving him a ride to his own girlfriend's home after a night of drinking and listening to music when they drove by the park..
Once there, Mendoza said he saw Barron aim a black shotgun out the window of the SUV and fire one round.
"He said, 'Oh (expletive) I think I shot somebody,'" Mendoza testified.
Vargas, who was in the park with her female cousin and two young males, died of a gunshot wound to the back.
San Diego police Detective Javier Padilla testified that after the killing, he spoke to Jose Milan Flores, a friend of Vargas' who said he planned to ask her to be his girlfriend that night but never got the chance.
Flores said a male friend picked him up, and they in turn picked up the friend's girlfriend, who was Vargas' cousin.
The four friends went to the park to hang out, the detective testified.
Flores told the detective that he was dancing closely with the victim when he heard a gunshot and saw her fall to the ground.
After the shooting, Mendoza said Barron instructed his girlfriend to drive to Tijuana, where he and another friend, Miguel Zaragoza, were let out of the car.
Mendoza testified that Barron threatened them and told them he was going to have the SUV cleaned in Mexico.
The witness said he and Zaragoza crossed back across the border, took a trolley and a bus to get home, but didn't call police.
Pierre Westbrooks testified that he was confronted earlier that same morning by three men, including one holding a shotgun.
Westbrooks said he was walking a friend out to his car when the young men approached him. The witness said one of the men uttered a gang slogan and one of them pointed a shotgun at him.
Westbrooks said the situation eventually ended without violence. He was unable to positively identify the man with the shotgun.
Barron was arrested by Mexican authorities in Tijuana and brought back to the United States on Oct. 9. The prosecutor did not disclose how investigators tracked down the defendant, but numerous pleas were put out for witnesses to come forward after the shooting.
The defendant, who has a grand theft conviction from 2009, faces 54 years to life in prison if found guilty of murder, an allegation that he fired a shotgun and assault with a firearm on Westbrooks.
Charges may be filed against Nina Ikonen, Barron's girlfriend, who is in Finland, DiCarlo said.