(Jan. 17, 2014) The 22-year-old Pennsylvania man who spent hours hiding in the bay beneath a private boat dock last June after shooting at two men, wounding one, will be spending time behind bars.
In Circuit Court in Snow Hill on Jan. 7, Judge Thomas C. Groton III ordered a pre-sentence investigation after finding Elvin Jovany Mendez-Espada, of Reading, guilty of use of a firearm in a crime of violence, attempted second-degree murder and two counts of first-degree assault. Mendez-Espada faces a possible 30-year sentence on the attempted murder charge and a mandatory sentence of at least five years on the firearm change.
A friend who accompanied him will also be spending time behind bars. Carwiln Duarte, 19, of Reading, Pa., pleaded guilty Monday, Jan. 13, to second-degree assault and was sentenced to three years in prison, with all but one year suspended.
On June 29, police officers were in the area of the Party Block at 17th Street because of the nightspot’s closing time when they heard gunshots. One officer heard a bullet whiz past his head.
The subsequent investigation revealed six people had been walking south of the sidewalk along Philadelphia Avenue on their way to 11th Street. When they reached 20th Street, they saw people in a pool at the Islander Motel next to the highway.
State’s Attorney Beau Oglesby told the court Jan. 7 he was uncertain as to what exactly was said, but disparaging comments were made and the six pedestrians continued walking.
Mendez-Espada and Duarte, who had been in the pool, caught up with the group and additional comments were made. Mendez-Espada lifted up his shirt, displayed the handgun there, then pulled it out and pointed it in the direction of one of the pedestrians. One of them hit Mendez-Espada trying to stop him after seeing the gun and Mendez-Espada fell into a fence along the sidewalk between 18th and 17th streets.
Mendez-Espada then fired at least two shots. Duarte hit the man, who had tried to stop Mendez-Espada, in his face and Mendez fired additional shots.
One shot struck a man through his pants leg and grazed his calf. Another shot passed through another man’s thigh.
“Everyone flees at that point,” Oglesby said.
Mendez-Espada ran north to Dolphin Street, between two houses “and actually goes into the canal where he staysed for several hours,” Oglesby said.
Police continued their search throughout the night and “once daylight is sufficient, they see Mr. Espada” in the water,” Oglesby said. He was treated for possible hypothermia and arrested. He told police he had seen the group of six people in the pool and they had “made disrespectful comments to him so he took his gun and chased this group down.”
The gun, a .45 caliber Smith and Wesson, had fallen into the canal and although two dive teams searched for it, it remained unfound.
Eduardo Gonzalez, the defendant’s defense attorney, said his client disagreed with the process of events as stated by Oglesby. Instead of showing the gun, Mendez-Espada, he said, was punched, bear hugged and “put up against a wall.” He then pulled out his gun and fired a warning shot, Gonzalez said.
Mendez-Espada entered an Alford plea instead of going to trial because “he realized it would have been a roll of the dice,” the attorney said. In an Alford plea, the defendant does not admit guilt, but acknowledges that the prosecution had sufficient evidence for a conviction.
Judge Groton said he was faced with two different versions of the facts of the case, but Mendez-Espada and his attorney had agreed to go forward with accepting the stated facts of the case, so he found Mendez-Espada guilty and ordered a presentence investigation.
Mendez-Espada will remain jailed without bond.
On Monday, Judge Groton told Duarte that he should have assisted the man who was trying to stop Mendez-Espada. Instead, Duarte went to the assistance of the man with the gun.
“You assisted him in the shooting,” Judge Groton said before sentencing him to three years in prison.