A state appeals court panel upheld a Duarte man’s conviction for killing a neighbor, shooting at another man and pointing a gun at several other people before leading Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies on a chase in August 2016.
The three-justice panel from California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal rejected the defense’s contention that the judge in Luis Santillan Valdes’ trial should have instructed jurors on the issue of voluntary intoxication.
Jurors convicted Valdes of first-degree murder for the Aug. 19, 2016, killing of Gabriel De La Torre, along with attempted murder, assault with a firearm and fleeing a pursuing peace officer’s motor vehicle while driving.
Valdes became offended by a remark made as he and others drank alcohol in the victim’s backyard and grew angry that the group was laughing at him, according to Deputy District Attorney Vanessa Alfaro.
Valdes left the get-together, then returned with a gun and fatally wounded the 32-year-old victim, then aimed his gun at two other men, shooting at one of them, and pointed the firearm at three other people as he walked to the front of the house, the prosecutor said.
“The evidence overwhelmingly supported a finding that Valdes acted with premeditation, deliberation and express malice when he went to retrieve his gun from the locked shed on his neighbor’s property and then returned to Gabriel’s property to confront the group of men who had offended him,” the appellate court panel found in its 23-page ruling. “The evidence also showed that, after asking the men which of them `want[ed] to be the first one,’ Valdes approached Gabriel, shot him once in the chest from point-blank range, and fired a second shot as Gabriel was falling to the ground.”
Valdes fled the scene in a pickup truck and was arrested after leading sheriff’s deputies on a brief pursuit that ended at the Azusa off-ramp of the eastbound Foothill (210) Freeway in Azusa.
He is serving a state prison term of 91 years and eight months to life.
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