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Witnesses describe April terror

Chevys incident left 2 people dead and 3 wounded

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Twelve-year-old Whitney Berg sat bravely in her witness chair, describing the day she watched her father die.

Peter Berg was one of two people killed April 27 in a shooting rampage that culminated at Chevys Fresh Mex, 7475 S. Union Park Ave. During the brief melee, Chevys manager Jason Rasmussen also was fatally shot. Jamie Lucero was wounded, along with Chevys employee Joshua Parker and Debbie Briggs.

The man accused in the incident, 22-year-old Quinn Robert Martinez, has been charged with two counts of capital murder, two counts of first-degree felony attempted murder and three counts of aggravated robbery, also first-degree felonies.

At his preliminary hearing Wednesday, prosecutors said the shooting spree began about 8:30 p.m. at the Extended Stay America Hotel, 7555 S. Union Park Ave. Lucero testified Martinez shot her in the leg during a brief altercation. Lucero also said both she and Martinez had been using methamphetamine steadily for at least two weeks prior to their violent altercation.

About 8:45 p.m., Parker said he saw a man attempting to use a telephone near the restaurant's reception desk. When he and Rasmussen told the man the phone could not be used to make outgoing calls, the man became agitated, Parker testified.

Parker and Rasmussen told the man he'd have to use a pay phone, Parker said, after which the man pulled out a black handgun and threatened them. Parker said he saw the man shoot Rasmussen and then felt the impact as a bullet struck him in the upper torso.

"It was just immense pressure, like I had been hit by a car," Parker said. The bullet remains lodged near his spine.

Parker identified Martinez as the shooter.

Jerry Guenon remembered hearing the dispute from his table at Chevys, where he was seated with his wife and two children. When shots rang out, Guenon — a former law enforcement officer — testified he rushed his family under the table.

When his daughter began crying loudly, Guenon said he decided to act as a decoy if he could, leading the gunman away from his family. He crept out from under the table and went toward Rasmussen, who he said was on his right side, gasping for breath. Guenon looked up just then and testified he saw a man with a gun out in front of the restaurant shoot another man, later identified as Peter Berg.

Guenon initially identified a different man in connection with the shooting but said Wednesday he was "90 percent sure" Martinez was the gunman.

Berg was shot after the gunman ordered him to relinquish his car. Seated beside Berg on the passenger side was Whitney Berg.

"This guy opened the passenger side door and said, 'Get out of the car,' " Berg testified Wednesday. "I didn't know what to do, so I told my dad to get out of the car and then I got out."

Berg testified her father tossed the keys to the ground. The man, whom she said was Martinez, fatally shot Peter Berg twice in the torso.

"I was screaming, 'Daddy, Daddy, are you OK?' " Berg said, her small voice shaking, "but I just stood there because I didn't know what to do."

Richard Reep testified a man who "could be" Martinez had also tried to forcibly take his car in the Chevys parking lot, but Reep was able to escape unharmed. A fingerprint expert testified later a palm print lifted from the hood of Reep's car matched Martinez.

The final victim, Debbie Briggs, said she witnessed the scuffle between Berg and another man as she was parking her vehicle. After seeing muzzle flashes when Berg was shot, and the man advancing toward her Chevy Tahoe, Briggs testified she tried to get away.

"I had made eye contact," Briggs said. "I could see that he was coming toward us. . . . I just knew I had to get out of there. I put the car in reverse, but before I could get it into drive he had fired into the car."

Briggs was shot in the face at close range but was able to drive the car to a nearby convenience store. She too later said Martinez was her attacker.

During cross-examination, defense attorneys James Valdez, David Mack and John O'Connell Jr. explored witnesses' recollection of the events and how sure they were that Martinez was involved. They also asked witnesses if he appeared under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

The preliminary hearing is expected to resume Monday, Sept. 25. If Martinez is convicted, the state could elect to impose the death penalty. Prosecutor Robert Stott said that decision will be made at a later date.


E-mail: jnii@desnews.com