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Man accused of triple murder claims shootings were self-defense

SOUTH SALT LAKE — A man accused of murdering three friends inside an SUV and then fleeing the scene claimed he shot them in self-defense because they tried to rob him, according to a newly released search warrant affidavit.

Shell casings, a gun, brass knuckles, marijuana and numerous cellphones were found inside the vehicle where police say a shootout resulted in the three killings.

Gerald Radckiff Grant, 19, whose last known address was in Miami, Florida, was booked into the Salt Lake County Jail on Feb. 22 for investigation of three counts of aggravated murder in the shooting deaths of brothers Raul Lopez-Salinas, 19, and Angel Lopez-Salinas, 20, and their friend Armando Cuenca-Curiel, 17. All were shot inside a Ford Explorer stopped in the middle of the road at 325 E. Park Creek Lane (3060 South) on Feb. 18.

Prosecutors have filed a motion to hold Grant in the Salt Lake County Jail until March 16 as they prepare formal criminal charges.

Two search warrants released Friday provide more insight into the events of that night, and how Grant ended up at a local hospital 2 ½ hours after the shootings.

Many residents called police just after 8 p.m. reporting shots fired.

"They also reported a van in the middle of the road smoking and making noise like it might blow up," the warrant states.

Angel Lopez-Salinas was found in the driver's seat, his brother in the rear passenger seat and Cuenca-Curiel in the cargo area, according to police.

"Both Angel and (Raul) had gunshot wounds to the head," the affidavit states. The warrant identifies the rear passenger victim as Lauro Lopez. Family members have identified him as Raul Lopez.

Both brothers died days later. Armando "had a gunshot wound on the left side of his chest and was pronounced deceased on scene by paramedics," according to the warrant.

Police believe a shootout happened inside the SUV, with Grant shooting the three friends. He also suffered a gunshot wound to the thigh during the incident.

Witnesses told police "they saw a juvenile black male limping from the Explorer, fall down in a snowbank, and then lean on a car parked in the street while talking on his phone. They reported several minutes later a white passenger vehicle arrived and picked this male up, then sped out of the area," the affidavit states.

Police say Grant called another man "saying that he needed help because he had been shot and needed to be picked up." That man, who was in a hookah lounge, found another man in the bar and both used the second man's car to pick up Grant, the warrant states.

Grant told the men "that the (three shooting victims) tried to rob him and started to beat on him inside the vehicle. They also shot him in the leg. Grant told (the man) he pulled his gun in self-defense and shot the males trying to rob him," according to the warrant.

The second man who was recruited at the hookah lounge to use his vehicle to pick up Grant "decided he didn’t want anything to do with it," according to the affidavit, so they "drove around to different places to find another vehicle."

Eventually, the trio called Grant's girlfriend who picked them up in a Mercedes Benz and drove them to University Hospital 2 ½ hours after the shooting was reported.

Investigators seized both the Mercedes as well as the SUV. Search warrants were executed on both vehicles.

Inside the SUV, investigators found a black semi-automatic pistol sticking out from under the front passenger seat "with the slide in locked back position," a shell casing on the front passenger seat, another shell casing in the rear cargo area, a baggy with marijuana on the floorboard by the front passenger seat, "multiple cellphones scattered about the vehicle," and "a pair of brass knuckles sitting on the driver’s seat," according to the warrant.

The officer also noted that the vehicle "smelled of marijuana."

A return to the warrant listed some of the items seized in the SUV as a .40 caliber handgun, an airsoft rifle, shell casings from 9 mm and .40 caliber bullets and drug paraphernalia.

In the Mercedes, detectives seized "multiple cellphones, clothing, blood, and bandaging materials."

Email: preavy@deseretnews.com

Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam