A state appeals court panel Friday upheld the conviction of a felon and two-time deportee for a shooting that wounded a female Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy during a traffic stop in Lomita more than a decade ago.
The three-justice panel from California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal rejected the defense’s contention that there was insufficient evidence to support a jury’s finding that Ernesto Casillas premeditated the shooting of the deputy at about 1:30 a.m. on May 6, 2010, ruling that “the firing of multiple shots at close range strongly supports a finding of premeditation and deliberation.”
The justices also turned down a claim that the trial court erred in admitting evidence of Casillas’ immigration status and his two prior deportations.
“In this case, the evidence was not simply that Casillas was an undocumented resident, but that he twice had been deported and was facing up to 20 years in prison if found in the United States,” the appellate court panel wrote. “Based on the significant probative value of the challenged evidence and the trial court’s limiting instruction to avoid its potential prejudice, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in admitting the evidence of Casillas’ immigration status.”
Casillas fled to Mexico after the shooting, was arrested on an unrelated charge by authorities in the Mexican state of Jalisco in 2014 and then extradited to Los Angeles County in May 2015.
The afternoon before the deputy’s shooting, Casillas had been involved in a dispute with a motorist in which he displayed a gun over his steering wheel, according to the appellate court panel’s 37-page ruling, which noted that the man immediately identified the defendant when he was shown a photo of him.
The deputy — who pulled the pickup truck over for straddling and driving between two lanes — suffered a “through-and-through gunshot wound which left scarring on her right elbow and a five-inch bruise on her right hip,” and couldn’t remember if she had fired any shots, the justices noted.
The truck was found four days later and a firearms expert who examined the vehicle spotted four areas of damage caused by bullet strikes to the truck — three fired from inside the truck and a fourth shot that was fired by the wounded deputy that struck the bottom molding of the driver’s side door but did not penetrate the door.
Casillas, who was identified by the deputy as the gunman and the truck’s driver, contended that he was a passenger in his truck and that someone else in the vehicle had fired at her, the justices noted.
Casillas, now 40, subsequently admitted that he had two prior burglary convictions. He was convicted in April 2019 of attempted murder, assault on a peace officer, assault with a firearm and possession of a firearm by a felon and is serving a 73-year-to-life state prison sentence.