By Sharna Johnson, Freedom New Mexico
Ruben Perez, the person police have said was the intended target of the shooting that took his 10-year-old brother’s life, was the first witness to take the stand Monday in the first-degree murder trial of a Clovis man.
He detailed the events of Sept. 14, 2005, the day leading up to the shooting of Carlos Perez. He said it started with a confrontation at the high school with Orlando Salas, younger brother of defendant Edward Salas. Perez said Orlando Salas confronted him with a knife in the bathroom after Perez told him to stop picking on his young cousin, he said.
“I told him to fight. I wanted to fight him,” he said.
“He told me he didn’t want to fight me. He said his older brother (Demetrio Salas) did.”
Perez said he agreed to meet Demetrio Salas at the park that night to fight but went home when no one showed up.
He said around 10 p.m., he got into the bed he shared with his younger brother and was woken by gunshots around 2:30 a.m.
“I heard the gunshots and I woke up. I didn’t turn on the lights because I didn’t want to wake up my brother,” he recalled.
“I ran outside, but didn’t see nobody… I heard my mom crying. Screaming. I ran back inside,” he said wiping tears from his eyes.
Perez said he tried to administer CPR to his brother while on the phone with the 911 operator.
As prosecutors played the recording of the call, the boys’ mother, Lupe Perez, could be heard screaming, “Carlito, Carlo Carlos… Can somebody help us… He’s bleeding. Please, Carlos, Carlos.”
Under cross-examination, Perez said he didn’t know Edward Salas, had never seen him before, and his name had not come up during the confrontation with Orlando Salas.
Opening statements began around 3 p.m. Monday and two witnesses took the stand after most of the day was spent narrowing a pool of 143 jurors down to a panel of eight women and seven men. Three will serve as alternates.
The trial is expected to take the rest of the week, Judge Teddy Hartley told jurors.
In addition to first-degree murder, 23-year-old Orlando Salas is charged with attempted murder, shooting at a dwelling or occupied building, two counts bribery or intimidation of a witness, conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and conspiracy to shooting at a dwelling or occupied building.
If convicted he faces a minimum of life in prison.