Witness: Pal slain in flurry of shots
Testimony starts in gang-tied case
FORT SMITH — Trey Miller told a Sebastian County Circuit Court jury Monday that he saw a man look in the door of his father’s trailer and then run away yelling ‘“shoot, shoot, shoot.’”
For the next 10 to 20 seconds the trailer was hit by a hail of gunfire from two assault-style rifles that killed 18-year-old Justin Lopez. In the opening statement of Bryan Porras’ trial, deputy prosecutor Scott Houston told the jury of seven men and five women that Lopez was struck by one bullet in the back of the head and probably died instantly.
He said ballistics tests would show that a fragment of that bullet removed from Lopez’s head was fired from an AR-15 rifle wielded by 20-yearold Porras.
Police detective Joseph Armer testified that he recorded finding 40 spent bullet casings and three unfired bullets in the alley next to the trailer that was parked in the backyard at 2315 N. Ninth St. on Jan. 14.
Porras is one of four members of the Slanga 96 gang who are charged in circuit court with first-degree murder, eight counts of committing a felony with a firearm and seven counts of committing a terroristic act in Lopez’s death. Porras also is charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm.
Houston told jurors that since all four were together, they all were charged with the same crimes.
Porras is the first of the four to go on trial in Lopez’s death. Alberto Chavez, 19, is scheduled to go on trial Nov. 27; Ryan Oxford, 20, on Dec. 18; and Jorge Chirinos, 17, on Jan. 8, according to circuit court records.
Houston said Chirinos would testify for the prosecution that Porras was angry at Lopez, who was a member of the rival Clout Boys gang, for disrespecting the Slanga gang. He will testify that the four went to a wedding reception and questioned guests about Lopez’s whereabouts, then drove to Ninth Street where the trailer was parked, Houston said.
Porras’ attorney, David Dunagin of Fort Smith, told jurors that Chirinos initially told police he was drunk that night and didn’t know what they were talking about.
Miller testified that he and Lopez were hanging out in his father’s trailer drinking and smoking marijuana between 9:40 p.m. and 10 p.m. when he saw the lights of a car approach down the alley.
He said Lopez grabbed a pump shotgun next to the open door of the trailer when they heard someone approach. Lopez “racked” a round into the chamber when no one responded to his challenge for the person to identify himself.
That’s when, Miller said, he heard someone yell to shoot. Miller said he crouched under the sink in the trailer’s bathroom. He suffered a slight injury from a bullet fragment or flying debris.
Lopez ran to the bedroom in the section closest to the alley and the gunfire, Miller said. Police counted more than 20 holes in the trailer.
Miller said that when the shooting stopped, he heard “whooping and hollering and celebrating” from outside.
Miller stayed hidden for about 90 seconds before emerging from the bathroom, he said. He went outside and called for Lopez, but received no response. Re-entering the trailer, he said, he heard Lopez’s gurgling breathing through the blood and dragged Lopez from the bedroom.
Houston told jurors that State Crime Laboratory technicians were able to match shell casings found at the scene to the AR-15 rifle found in Porras’ apartment and the AK-47 found in Oxford’s home.
Testimony in the case is to resume at 9 a.m. today.