EDINBURG — Cristian Alejandro Vasquez said he was driving at 130 mph toward the nearest hospital on the expressway seconds after a bullet struck his friend in the head.
Juan Sanchez, Vasquez’s other passenger, immediately jumped into the backseat to check on their friend Javier Olmedo — but Vasquez testified by that point he already knew his friend was dead because he had stopped moving.
This, the state said, played out in the moments after Rolando Rene Rodriguez, a passenger in Jorge Alberto Guajardo’s Ford Focus and a known Tri-City Bomber gang member, fired a 9mm handgun more than 10 times at the Ford Mustang carrying Olmedo and two of his friends.
Olmedo, who poked his head up after the shooting began, suffered a single gunshot wound to his left temple, and died at a McAllen hospital where he was declared brain dead, the state said.
Vasquez, 20, of Alamo, provided arguably the most revealing testimony in the first day of the trial of Guajardo, stating among other things that he, Olmedo and Sanchez, all at some point were affiliated with the Southside Bandidos street gang.
Prosecutors Vance W. Gonzales, Michelle Puig, and Mauricio Martinez, argued during opening statements that Guajardo and Rodriguez chased down Olmedo, Vasquez, and Sanchez, at about 6 p.m. Sept. 28, 2015, and shot at them at least 10 times.
Vasquez, who testified that he, Olmedo and Sanchez were unarmed that night, said he is no longer involved with gangs and is currently serving time on an unrelated case.
He said that he had known his two passengers for at least a decade from their time as grade school friends.
Vasquez testified that afternoon Olmedo had asked for a ride to a local cemetery — from there the trio drove through Donna — and at one point passed by Rodriguez’s residence, where he noticed a group of men, but said nothing came of it.
Vasquez testified he continued driving through Donna when he realized two vehicles were following him, a Lincoln passenger car, and a Yukon SUV, so he drove into a gas station parking lot. There he noticed a third car, a grey Ford Focus.
Vasquez testified that inside the Focus was a man he knew as “Crash,” a nickname for Rodriguez.
Minutes later, after attempting to speed away from the Focus, he heard multiple gunshots and saw that “Crash” was shooting at them from the passenger seat of the vehicle.
But Guajardo contends that on that day he planned to go fishing, and said Rodriguez held him at gunpoint — forcing him to drive after the vehicle that carried Olmedo and his friends.
Rodriguez admitted in early January, as part of a plea deal, that he shot at the 17-year-old teen and others in the vehicle — because of an alleged threat Olmedo’s gang made against one of Rodriguez’s family members.
But the state alleges Guajardo and Rodriguez went after the car full of teens because they believed them to be affiliated with a rival gang.
As part of their case against Guajardo, the state called several witnesses over the course of a nearly 12-hour court session Tuesday, including Olmedo’s sister, Melissa Olmedo, and two teens who testified they were in the Lincoln passenger car that was following Olmedo at the request of another person with them, and an investigator with the Donna Police department.
Also taking the stand was U.S. Marshal Robert Garmon, who was part of the task force which arrested Guajardo more than two weeks later in Sugarland, just outside Houston. His testimony was allowed into evidence after the court denied a motion by the defense to have the details of his arrest suppressed.
Testimony is scheduled to resume today when the state is expected to call more law enforcement officials involved in the investigation into the shooting, and lay witnesses who knew the victim.