By Jasmine Hall
Wyoming Tribune Eagle Via Wyoming News Exchange 

Cheyenne teens charged as adults following fatal drive-by shooting

 

May 11, 2023

CHEYENNE - Two Cheyenne teens involved in a drive-by shooting in Lincoln Park that resulted in the death of a 15-year-old girl will be charged as adults.

Julian Espinoza, 16, was driving the vehicle during the time of the April 30 incident and has been charged with conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and aiding and abetting first-degree murder. He faces life in prison alongside Johnny Munoz, the 17-year-old passenger, who was charged with first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder.

Both teens appeared before Laramie County Circuit Judge Antoinette Williams for an initial appearance Wednesday morning. Their bonds were each set at $250,000 cash after they pleaded not guilty, and they were appointed public defenders.

Their preliminary hearing is scheduled for next Thursday at 1:30 p.m.

A more than week-long investigation by the Cheyenne Police Department and U.S. Marshals Service Fugitive Task Force led to their arrest Tuesday.They were placed in custody without incident and booked into the Laramie County Juvenile Detention Center.

CPD officials said the case remained under investigation as of Thursday, but an affidavit of probable cause was filed in Circuit Court. Detective Mike Fernandez outlined in a five-page document how Espinoza and Munoz were allegedly connected to the death of the unidentified 15-year-old girl.

Shooting at the park

The night of the shooting, police officers were dispatched at 12:23 a.m. to reports of shots fired at Lincoln Park.They found a female victim, identified as B.C.C. in the affidavit, who had been shot on the left side of her face while she was at the park with her siblings and friends. She was unresponsive, and officers held pressure on her face and performed CPR until emergency responders arrived at the scene. She was transported to Cheyenne Regional Medical Center in critical condition and was declared dead later the next day.

B.C.C. was the only person reported to be injured at the park, but she was surrounded by family and friends who were playing basketball after a barbecue at a house near the park.

A witness identified as J.O. due to being underage said he was playing basketball when a Cadillac SUV pulled up and someone fired shots at the court where they were playing. He took off running, but his friends yelled at him that his friend's sister was shot, and he came back. He found B.C.C. lying on the ground and took off his shirt to apply pressure to her head before calling 911.

J.O. told the police he didn't know who was driving and had never seen the vehicle before, but he heard between seven and 10 shots. He later told Fernandez that he had a 9mm handgun that he used to return fire on the SUV.

"J.O. described the SUV as moving slowly. He then observed a front passenger male shoot out the window. J.O. described the gun as black and seeing 'sparks' from the gun," the affidavit stated.

S.V. was another minor who was at the park, and had been sitting next to B.C.C. before the shooting occurred. She said that "everyone at the park had been at her house, located in the 400 block of East Seventh Street, having a BBQ, prior to going to the park to play basketball." She said they arrived at 11:30 p.m.

Other witnesses shared similar accounts with the police officers, including homeowners who stated their homes and vehicles were damaged by gunfire in the vicinity. One resident on Eighth Street had a Ring doorbell camera and provided footage that showed a vehicle heading westbound just before the shooting, and "there were three shots heard on the footage, followed by one, then 16 rapid, nearly simultaneous shots."

Traffic stop

In almost the same timeframe as the shots fired, Officer Robert Wingeleth was patrolling the streets and "heard multiple loud popping noises consistent with gunshots." He traveled toward the direction he thought he heard the gunshots coming from and observed a black Chevrolet Suburban SUV traveling south on Warren Avenue.

Fernandez notes in the affidavit that a "Cadillac Escalade and Chevy Suburban have similar body styles, as they are both manufactured by General Motors," in reference to witnesses describing different SUV types while they were interviewed.

The vehicle Wingeleth observed didn't have any headlights or taillights on, and the driver turned the headlights on and off when it turned down East First Street. Wingeleth initiated a traffic stop as the shots-fired call was being aired over the radio.

Espinoza was the driver identified in the affidavit, and he said he and his four friends were driving away from the Destiny Church parking lot near the park because they heard the gunshots.

The officer said the Suburban appeared to have three rows, and the front passenger was later identified as Munoz.The middle-row driver side passenger was Jalen Trujillo, the middle row passenger side passenger was a minor identified as J.L., and the third-row passenger was Santana Trujillo.

Dispatch had informed the officers that the suspected vehicle from the shooting was a black or red Cadillac Escalade, and the officer let Espinoza and the rest of his passengers leave because the make of the vehicle did not match.

Follow up

However, during the breakdown of the scene, officers discovered four spent .380 shell casings on the north side of the street and the grass on East Seventh Street consistent with the travel path of the Chevy driven by Espinoza.The affidavit notes "it was consistent with the shells being ejected from the passenger side of the Chevy."

Detective Fernandez and other officers went to the home of the Chevy owner at 4:30 a.m. the day of the shooting and were introduced to Espinoza's mother, Rebecca Pino.The owner of the Chevy was Allen Pino, who was there, and they informed him his car was being towed to the police department for an active homicide investigation.

Espinoza was also interviewed at their home, and when he was asked by Fernandez why they were at the location looking for him, he stated, "yeah."

"J.E. (Espinoza) stated he had left prom and picked up his friends, J.M. (Munoz), Jalen and Santana Trujillo, and J.L., from Jalen and Santana Trujillo's house on the south side," Fernandez stated in his affidavit. "J.E. stated while driving by 'LP' (Lincoln Park), 'they thought we were somebody we weren't, and they started shooting at us.' He went on to state, 'the first thing I do is hit the gas, I'm trying to get out of there, I don't know who, what.'" Fernandez followed up with more questions, during which Espinoza went back and forth with the details of his story. He was described as being "extremely nervous, as his voice shook when he spoke." He said the car was not damaged by bullets, and they were just driving by to play basketball and saw people there.

"'They just started shooting back, they started shooting so we were, I was gone,'" according to the affidavit. "J.E. confirmed he was driving the Chevy Suburban. Detective Fernandez advised J.E. he just made a concerning statement about them shooting back. J.E. responded with, 'no, we shot them.' Detective Fernandez responded with, 'okay.'

"J.E. then stated, 'No, they shot at us. Oh my God, they shot at us.'

J.E. then denied there being an exchange of gunfire."

He did confirm the seating position of everyone in the car, including Munoz, as well as being stopped by Officer Wingeleth. Espinoza said he turned off his vehicle lights because he believed they were being followed, and he heard a lot of gunshots. He denied any of his passengers had a gun that he was aware of and said he didn't know if the shots came from inside or outside.

"J.E. later stated he had told Officer Wingeleth that someone had shot at them," the documents included. "Based on a review of Officer Wingeleth's body camera, Detective Fernandez did not hear J.E. ever make Officer Wingeleth aware they had been shot at. During the traffic stop, Detective Fernandez also observed J.M. pulling up his clothing on the left side of his body and appeared to place an object in his waistband."

Officers spoke with Munoz and other passengers in the car later that day, and all of them confirmed where they sat and denied anyone possessing a firearm.

On the same day, there was .380 unspent ammunition recovered from the center console of the Chevy that was "consistent with the ammunition from the spent shell casings."

Multiple bullets

The investigation continued, and surveillance footage was provided by Carriann Vigil, who had the surveillance system at her house and hosted the barbecue. It revealed a dark-colored SUV similar to Espinoza's drive by the home, which came shortly before the call to respond to a shooting.

The footage also showed at least three male juveniles running back to the house from the direction of Lincoln Park, and one of them appeared to have a handgun.They also observed another person with a handgun, who was identified as witness J.O.

J.O. said he had shot from a 9mm handgun, and there were 14 spent shell casings from a 9mm found at the scene and processed.They were in the grass, and it was consistent with the story he told to the officers about firing shots in return.

This is not believed to be the same bullet found in the teen victim's skull during the autopsy. A partially recovered crushed copper-colored bullet was found, and there weren't any metal pieces that suggested the bullet was fragmented.

"Detective Walker further inspected the 9mm projectile he had recovered near the bus on 05/01/23," as revealed in the crime scene processing. "Detective Walker weighed the 9mm projectile, which weighed approximately 115.4 grains. Detective Walker also weighed the projectile recovered from B.C.C.'s head, which weighed approximately 90.4 grains.

"The .380 bullets from the Chevy Suburban 'SIG' elite performance were 100 full grain metal jackets.This information suggests that the caliber that struck B.C.C. was a .380 and not a 9mm based on weight."

The affidavit also detailed the difficulty of obtaining Espinoza's cellphone for the investigation and that he would not give it to the police in an interaction at South High School. He attempted to delete items off his phone while the police waited for his mother to arrive and physically resisted the detectives when they told him not to touch the phone.

It was the only other interaction between the police and Espinoza included in the affidavit, and little details were provided related to investigating Munoz.

Any other documents regarding the homicide investigation are not currently available to the public due to the defendants being minors, Municipal Court officials said.

This story was published on May 12, 2023.

 
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