Citing a lack of evidence presented by prosecutors, a judge Tuesday dismissed two attempted murder counts filed against one of three men accused in a shooting at an Indio gas station that left two men wounded, one critically.
David Lua, 45, of Bermuda Dunes is accused along with his brother, Daniel Lua, 32, of Mecca, and Martin Chapa, 40, of Indio, in the Nov. 27, 2018, shooting at the ARCO am/pm at 42334 Jefferson St.
Prosecutors charged each defendant with two counts of attempted murder, along with gun-related sentence-enhancing allegations. David Lua was additionally charged with two felony counts of possession of both heroin and methamphetamine for sale.
Following a preliminary hearing at the Larson Justice Center in Indio, Riverside County Superior Court Judge Dean Benjamini found there was insufficient evidence for David Lua to proceed to trial on two counts of attempted murder. The judge did see fit, however, to hold the defendant to answer on a single count of being an accessory after the fact, and the two drug-related felonies.
Benjamini, meanwhile, ruled prosecutors presented sufficient evidence for Daniel Lua and Martin Chapa to proceed to trial on all their respective charges.
Benjamini scheduled a post-preliminary hearing arraignment for Jan. 25. All three defendants remain in custody.
Indio Police Department Detective Jesse Marin testified that the incident began when Daniel Lua and his girlfriend were traveling in a vehicle from Coachella. The woman allegedly told Marin that her ex-boyfriend then began following the pair’s vehicle, which is when Daniel Lua made a phone call. Marin testified Daniel Lua called his brother, David Lua, to come help, who, along with Martin Chapa, showed up with weapons.
The ex-boyfriend and his passenger were then shot and wounded. One of the men was struck in the torso area and suffered a severed spinal cord, police said. An update on his injuries was not provided. The other man was shot in the calf, according to Indio police Officer Oscar Santos.
Santos testified that the ex-boyfriend said the woman called him and requested help fixing her Jeep, which was experiencing mechanical issues, which is why they were following the vehicle, Santos said.
According to Deputy District Attorney Steven Sorensen, David Lua drove Martin Chapa to the location. Chapa had two guns on him, Sorensen said. Once at the gas station, Martin Chapa allegedly handed one of the handguns to Daniel Lua, and the two opened fire.
The motive in the case hinged on an alleged “beef” between the ex-boyfriend and the woman’s new boyfriend, Daniel Lua, according to Sorenson.
Benjamini pointed out that prosecutors presented no evidence to prove that Daniel Lua called his brother, or that David Lua knew his passenger had two guns on him before arriving at the scene.
It was not immediately clear if prosecutors intended to re-file attempted murder charges against David Lua.
Melanie Roe, Daniel Lua’s defense attorney, contended during the hearing that the woman at the center of the drama — and a crucial witness for the prosecution — was addicted to drugs at the time. Roe also said the woman was on record telling lies to police officers several times during the course of the investigation.
All three defendants have prior felony convictions in Riverside County, court records show. Chapa has convictions including for robbery and evading arrest. Daniel Lua has burglary and vehicle theft convictions. David Lua was convicted of transporting a controlled substance, and also has two pending felony cases for transporting a controlled substance.