A state appellate court panel has upheld a man’s conviction for opening fire at a memorial event at a Valley Village restaurant, killing four people and wounding two others in April 2010.
In a ruling handed down Monday and reviewed Tuesday by City News Service, the three-justice panel from California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal noted that Nerses Arthur Galstyan fired 50 gunshots from a semi-automatic weapon, resulting in 30 gunshots to six men.
Jurors found Galstyan guilty in March 2016 of two counts of first-degree murder for the shooting deaths of Vardan Tofalyan, 31, and Harut Baburyan, 28, along with one count of second-degree murder for the killing of Hayk Yegnanyan, 25, and one count of voluntary manslaughter in the death of Sarkis Karadjian, 26.
Galstyan was also found guilty of two counts of attempted voluntary manslaughter involving two other victims who survived, along with one count of aggravated mayhem involving two other victims who survived. One of the men lost an eye.
Jurors additionally found true the special circumstance allegation of multiple murders, but recommended that he be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole rather than the death penalty.
Galstyan was sentenced in December 2016 to life behind bars, with Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Charlaine F. Olmedo saying then that he had engaged in an “unprovoked attack.”
She said the defense’s argument that the April 3, 2010, shooting was carried out in self-defense had too many holes to make sense, noting that some of the victims were shot in the back.
It was undisputed that Galstyan shot and killed Yegnanyan, Karadjian, Baburyan and Tofalyan at the Hot Spot restaurant on April 3, 2010.
Galstyan’s trial attorney, Alex Kessel, told jurors that Yegnanyan pulled a knife on Galstyan’s brother, Sam, outside the restaurant prior to the shooting.
Galstyan’s lawyer said his client tried to defuse the situation by picking up Yegnanyan, hoisting him over his shoulder and turning in circles before putting him down. Yegnanyan then called Karadjian and Baburyan, who came armed to the memorial gathering, according to Kessel.
“My client, Nerses Galstyan, was the one targeted that day,” Kessel said, telling jurors during the trial that Galstyan only fired when Karadjian pulled a gun on him.
But Deputy District Attorney Thomas Trainor insisted during the trial that Galstyan “walked in ready to fire, bullet already in the chamber, no safety on.” The prosecutor said Galstyan “began firing as he walked in … round after round after round after round .. pausing to reload … stopping only when he ran out of bullets.”
Karadjian was “never able to chamber a round,” Trainor said.
After the shooting, Galstyan fled to a Seattle suburb, where he was arrested. He has remained jailed without bail since then.
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