FAIRFIELD — The third day of the prosecution case in the gang-related murder trial of a Vacaville man saw jurors spend hours listening to one of the shooting victim’s friends repeatedly refuse to identify the gunman and a rival gang member who put the accused near the shooting scene minutes before shots rang out.
Rico M. Espitia, 22, has pleaded not guilty to a murder charge for the July 30, 2011, shooting death of 20-year-old Quenten D. Nears at an Alamo Drive apartment complex.
Jurors on Friday listened to police audio recordings of Nears’ friend refusing to cooperate with Vacaville police or to identify the gunman. The friend described walking with Nears through the Alamo Gardens apartments when the gunman confronted them and, after a brief exchange of words, Nears was shot three times. The friend repeatedly expressed fears about being labeled as a snitch.
On Thursday, prosecutor Julie Underwood put the friend on the witness stand, where he again refused to identify Espitia or anyone else as the shooter.
Jurors also heard from a rival gang member, who lived in a trailer adjacent to the apartment complex. He testified that he and two friends were approached by Espitia, who he had known from high school. Espitia made some gang taunts before walking off into the apartment complex. Because of the way Espitia was walking, the man said he assumed Espitia was packing a gun. A few minutes later, he heard several gunshots.
The trial is scheduled to resume Monday, when Judge Donna Stashyn is expected to rule on the consequences of Vacaville police investigators not disclosing until after the start of the trial that they had uncovered a gun months after the shooting that a gang member claimed he found in a creek behind the apartment complex.
The gun was never tested to see if it would match the bullets fired during the shooting.
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