The case of two men accused of shooting at an off-duty Merced police officer reached a partially uncertain conclusion Tuesday, as jurors were deadlocked on whether one of the defendants was involved.
Daniel Uriostegui, 20, and Martin Olvera, 18, were accused of shooting at Officer Vance Walker's pickup during the early morning hours of June 19. Police believe the duo were on foot when the shooting happened.
Olvera was accused of being the triggerman, while Uriostegui was accused of standing in front of Walker's truck, blocking his path. Prosecutors said the motive for the shooting was never determined, although Walker was believed to be a random victim.
The jury of five women and seven men convicted Uriostegui on all three felony counts: attempted murder, shooting at an occupied vehicle and participating in a criminal street gang.
But the jury couldn't reach a unanimous verdict on whether Olvera was the person who gripped the .38 caliber revolver and fired four shots at Walker's truck. The jury was divided 7-5 on the counts of attempted murder and shooting at an occupied vehicle, with the majority of jurors voting in favor of a guilty verdict.
Still, the jury convicted Olvera on a felony count of participating in a criminal street gang.
One juror, who asked to remain anonymous, told the Sun-Star there simply wasn't enough evidence to connect the gun to Olvera, which led to the mistrial on two felony counts.
David Capron, Olvera's attorney, argued during the trial there was DNA from three people on the gun -- but the DNA didn't belong to Olvera. He also said there was no gunshot residue on Olvera's hand, even though he allegedly fired the gun four times.
Capron also argued that Walker wasn't able to identity Olvera's face -- only his voice. Taking those factors into consideration, Capron said the shooter could have been someone else.
Even if the District Attorney's Office decides to retry Olvera on the two felony counts, Capron said he doesn't expect a different outcome. "(The facts) are not going to change in the next trial," Capron said.
Sean Howard, Uriostegui's attorney, argued his client happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time -- but wasn't a participant in the shooting. Howard was disappointed by the jury's verdict. "There's just hardly any evidence," Howard said. "It just seems illogical to me."
The morning of the shooting, Walker was driving southbound in the 3000 block of Park Avenue when he saw Uriostegui walking from the east curb, according to a police report. Uriostegui walked into the southbound lane, stopping directly in front of Walker's truck.
After Walker slowed down, Olvera, who was standing about 20 feet away on Walker's driver's side, allegedly spoke to the victim, saying "Do you have a cigarette?" Walker replied that he didn't, but became suspicious after seeing Uriostegui motion with his head toward Olvera.
As Walker began to drive away, four shots rang out. One bullet hit the driver's side door, below the window, while another struck the driver's side mirror. Two more bullets hit the truck's camper shell.
Walker ducked and called police after speeding away from the scene. He wasn't injured.
Deputy District Attorney David Elgin disagreed with Capron's contention that Walker wasn't able to visually identify Olvera. Elgin said although at first Walker wasn't sure Olvera was the shooter, he later was able to identify Olvera by both his physical appearance and voice.
Despite the outcome, Elgin applauded the jury, saying it was a "tough" case. "This jury worked their tails off," Elgin said. "I have the utmost admiration of their work."
Elgin didn't say Tuesday whether his office will retry Olvera, saying the issue will be discussed over the next few weeks by attorneys in his office.
The original prosecutor in the trial, Deputy District Attorney Christa Gonzalez, had to drop out in the middle of the proceedings because of illness.
The jury also convicted Uriostegui of several enhancements, including committing a crime for the benefit of a street gang. He now faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Olvera, who was convicted of participating in a criminal street gang, faces a maximum of three years in prison.
Reporter Victor A. Patton can be reached at (209) 385-2431 or email@example.com.