A 21-year-old Garden City man told an investigator that he carried out a July 15 drive-by shooting that resulted in the death of a Garden City teen and the arrest of two suspects, and he led her to a gun authorities believe was used in the shooting, a sheriff's investigator said during preliminary hearing testimony.
Finney County Sheriff’s investigator Jennifer Rogers, who testified that Anthony Chavez told her in an interview the day he was arrested about his involvement in the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Ramon Enriquez of Garden City, was one of several witnesses who testified Tuesday in Finney County District Court.
After Rogers’ testimony, as well as statements from others who were in the blue Chevy Yukon authorities say was the target of the shooting, Finney County District Judge Ricklin Pierce said there was enough evidence to bound Anthony Chavez over for arraignment on first-degree murder and other charges.
Anthony Chavez, who also faces charges of criminal discharge of a firearm at an occupied vehicle, three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and criminal possession of a weapon by a felon, is scheduled for arraignment at 1 p.m. Nov. 27. His brother, Andres Chavez, 20, faces the same charges in connection with the shooting and has a preliminary hearing set for 9:30 a.m. Dec. 6.
At about 1:37 a.m. July 15, sheriff’s investigators responded to a report of a shooting on the U.S. Highway 50 bypass between Third Street and Campus Drive, where it was reported that someone from a vehicle had fired shots at another vehicle while traveling east on the bypass.
Enriquez, who witnesses say was seated in the second row on the driver's side of the Yukon, was shot and died later at St. Catherine Hospital.
Authorities took both Chavez brothers into custody at about 3 p.m. the day of the shooting, and Rogers testified that she interviewed Anthony Chavez that night.
After initially denying he was involved in the shooting, Rogers testified, Anthony Chavez told her that he was the only person in the suspect vehicle and that he shot 11 times at the Yukon. She said she drove Anthony Chavez to his home, 1410 B St., where he led her to a shed and a shoe box that contained a 40-caliber handgun and two boxes of ammunition.
During cross-examination, defense attorney Ron Evans said matter-of-factly to Rogers, “He took the blame.”
“He was protecting his brother,” Rogers said.
Monica Esparza-Gonzalez, her boyfriend, Cristo Garcia, and her brother, Mario Esparza-Gonzalez — all friends of Enriquez — testified Tuesday that they also were in the Yukon that night. Monica Esparza-Gonzalez was driving, Garcia was in the front passenger seat and Mario Esparza-Gonzalez was in the second row next to Enriquez.
Mario Esparza-Gonzalez, 17, testified that the Chavez brothers were coming for him the night of July 14 and early morning hours of the 15th. He said the brothers had issues with him stemming from their belief that his sister had stolen marijuana from their friend, Austin Hernandez, and that Mario Esparza-Gonzalez had “shot up their homie’s crib.” Under cross-examination by Evans, Mario Esparza-Gonzalez said that when asked about the shooting incident by the Chavez brothers, he denied being involved.
Rogers testified that during her interview with Anthony Chavez, he told her that somebody had stolen drugs from Hernandez and that he and Andres Chavez became involved in the situation. She also said Anthony Chavez accused Mario Esparza-Gonzalez of shooting at his home with a BB gun.
On the night of July 14, Mario Esparza-Gonzalez said, he was at the Sunflower Motel when he received a phone call and recognized the voices on speaker phone as Andres and Anthony Chavez. He testified that the Chavez brothers threatened to kill him and his family.
Mario Esparza-Gonzalez said he contacted his sister, and she, Garcia and Enriquez, drove to the hotel and picked him up. The three testified that they drove to Garcia’s mother’s house to check on Monica Esparza-Gonzalez and Garcia’s 2-year-old daughter, before driving to Mario Esparza-Gonzalez’s residence in Ball Trailer Park, 2970 N. Anderson Road, where his mother also lived.
Mario Esparza-Gonzalez testified that the Chavez brothers called him, asked where he was and said they were on their way to his house.
On their way to the trailer park, the occupants in the Yukon noticed a white pickup following them closely. All three of them testified that Monica Esparza-Gonzalez pulled into the trailer park and parked, and the driver of the truck did the same.
Mario Esparza-Gonzalez testified that he recognized the vehicle as Andres Chavez’s work truck, and told the others in the Yukon who was in the truck and what was going on. Worried that he and the others were in danger if they stayed at the trailer park, he said he told his sister to to pull out.
The Yukon occupants testified that the truck continued to follow very closely as they drove north on Anderson Road. Mario Esparza-Gonzalez said he looked back and was able to identify the driver of the truck as Andres Chavez, but was unable to identify the other two people he saw in the truck.
Monica Esparza-Gonzalez and Garcia said they weren't able to identify any of the subjects in the truck.
Monica Esparza-Gonzalez said she sped up when she reached the highway and headed east on the bypass, reaching speeds of 110 mph in an attempt to get away from the truck.
The truck attempted to pull up beside the Yukon in the left lane, but couldn’t catch up, Mario Esparza-Gonzalez said. That was when the shots were fired from the truck, he said.
Monica Esparza-Gonzalez said she only remembers hearing one gun shot. Garcia and Mario Esparza-Gonzalez testified to hearing five. Under cross-examination from Evans, Mario Esparza-Gonzalez said more than one person was firing as he could see gun fire coming from both sides of the truck.
The Yukon continued east on the bypass, but when Monica Esparza-Gonzalez realized Enriquez had been shot, she said she exited at Mary Street, drove to Third Street, turned left and headed toward St. Catherine Hospital. She said she saw a police vehicle on Third Street and stopped and asked for help.
Officers and EMS personnel attempted life-saving measures on Enriquez in the 2000 block of North Third Street, before he was taken to the hospital.
Sheriff’s investigator Vanessa Hahn testified she found three confirmed bullet holes in the vehicle — one in the exhaust pipe, one in the rear hatch on the driver’s side and one in the passenger side rear tire, where a bullet was lodged. Another bullet was found near Enriquez’s body on Third Street. Both back tires on the vehicle were flat, leading her to believe the other tire may have been struck by a bullet.
Hahn said she concluded that the bullet that pierced the trunk must have gone through two rows of seats and struck Enriquez.
Rogers said investigators seized mobile phones, a white pickup matching the description given by Monica and Mario Esparza-Gonzalez, a handgun and a gun cleaning kit from Chavez’s residence at 1410 B St., as well as a black latex glove on the driver’s side floorboard of the truck. Investigators also found 9mm and 40-caliber shell casings at the scene of the shooting.
In her interview with Anthony Chavez, Rogers said, he told her that he went to Garden City Liquors twice on the day before the shooting and that he had been drinking that day. Video surveillance footage from the store shows Chavez wearing a black cap that matched a cap investigators found at the scene of the shooting, Rogers said.
Authorities also seized the cell phone of Sabrina Figueroa, Andres Chavez’s girlfriend, who was with the Chavez brothers the night of July 14, Rogers said. A video taken that night on Figueroa’s phone that was played in court Tuesday shows the trio together, and Anthony Chavez is seen wearing a black cap like the one found at the scene of the shooting and black gloves, and he's holding 40-caliber bullets.
Rogers said Figueroa’s phone was with the Chavez brothers the night of the shooting and was used to send numerous messages and calls to Mario Esparza-Gonzalez, starting late the night of July 14 and ending just minutes before Enriquez was shot.
In a closing statement, Prosecutor Brian Sherwood said evidence supports a charge of premeditated murder and shows the Chavez brothers were planning a shooting.
Contact Brett Riggs at firstname.lastname@example.org.