SALT LAKE CITY — A St. George man was arrested Wednesday after police say he shot an unsuspecting man without provocation while the man was lying on the floor.
Nicanor Vasquez-Mendoza, 32, was arrested for investigation of murder, drug distribution, aggravated assault, five counts of witness tampering, possession of drug paraphernalia, two counts of possession of a firearm by a restricted person, and carrying a weapon while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
On Wednesday, St. George police were called to 252 N. 2700 East on a report of a shooting. Skyler Armstrong, 18, was found in a bedroom with a gunshot wound to the head. He was taken to a local hospital where he died from his injuries.
Just as officers were arriving, a pickup truck was seen “rapidly” pulling away from the residence, according to a Washington County Jail report. Vasquez-Mendoza, the driver, was stopped and told to go back to the house.
Vasquez-Mendoza told officers that the gunshot wound was self-inflicted and that he fled because he wasn’t allowed to be around firearms, the report states.
But investigators learned that Armstrong was right-handed, and the gunshot wound was on the left side of his head, according to police. Furthermore, “the injuries on Skyler are not consistent with a contact shot. It lacked evidence that is usually observed when a gunshot is self-inflicted,” the report states.
Detectives determined there were “numerous” people in the home at the time of the shooting, including at least three juveniles and an adult in the bedroom where the shooting occurred, police wrote.
“Four of the friends stated they were looking at their phones when the shot was fired. After hearing the shot, they fled the bedroom,” the report states. But a fifth person told investigators that Nicanor Mendoza was in the room with them and they were smoking methamphetamine and “talking about guns,” police wrote.
According to the witness, Vasquez-Mendoza took a handgun out of his pocket, removed the bullets and then put one bullet back in, according to the report.
“Nicanor spun the cylinder to put the bullet in an unknown firing location and closed the cylinder. Nicanor pointed the gun at the ground and pressed the trigger,” the report states.
The gun did not fire at that time.
He then pointed the gun at a juvenile, and then at Armstrong and pulled the trigger, according to the report.
“The gun went off, shooting Skyler in the head,” the report states.
According to police, Vasquez-Mendoza’s girlfriend then told everyone in the room that when they were questioned, they should tell officers that they were looking at their phones and that the shooting was self-inflicted.
Silvia Gladiz Lopez, 26, of St. George, was also arrested and formally charged Thursday in 5th District Court with obstructing justice, a second-degree felony, and five counts of witness tampering, a third-degree felony.
After the shooting, Lopez found Vasquez-Mendoza in the driveway, according to a probable cause affidavit.
“Silvia said that Nicanor told her to tell the other boys in the room to get their stories straight. Nicanor told Silvia to have the boys say that the victim was shot playing with the gun and shot himself. Nicanor then tried to flee the scene in his vehicle,” the affidavit states. “Silvia approached the five witnesses who were in the bedroom and instructed them to inform falsely of the events that transpired and withhold information that would be crucial to the investigation.”
When detectives returned to the house, a gun was found in the bathroom, the report states. Investigators also believe Armstrong was lying down when he was shot, according to the report.
The group claimed they were all at the house to record music.
“A makeshift recording studio is inside the bedroom and may contain recordings around when the incident occurred,” police wrote.
Police searched Vasquez-Mendoza’s truck and found methamphetamine and an AR-15 that had had its serial number removed, according to the report.
On the Facebook group Indian Oaks-Indian Springs-Mesa Shadows Neighborhood, Wendy McEntire Armstrong posted, “As you may know Skyler was killed yesterday! I will miss u Skyler! I love u so much!”
Many replied with messages of condolences and prayers.
“I can’t even explain how much my heart is broken. I am speechless!” one woman posted.
“I’m so sorry Wendy. We love you and your family. I pray you may find comfort at this devastating time. Sending lots of love and comfort your way. You’re all in my thoughts and prayers,” wrote another.
According to his Facebook page, Skyler Armstrong went to Desert Hills High School in St. George.