After a little more than two hours of deliberation, Saturday, the jury found David Vega, 48, guilty on all counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of his son Christopher Lee Vega and his son’s girlfriend Michelle Montgomery, on May 10, 2010.
During the shoot-out that followed, Vega was wounded and injured three Roswell police officers. Vega was also found guilty on all three charges of attempted murder of Officers Ted Sandoval, Doyle Baker and Keith Rightsell.
In the final day of the trial, defense attorney Jesse Cosby called four members of RPD, Sgt. Erik Hiatt, Officers James Burton and Michael Fry, and Sgt. Cruz Zavala to review their actions at the scene and during the subsequent investigation of the officer-involved shooting.
Cosby wondered why officers had been interviewed rather than submitting written reports of the events. Hiatt replied that either procedure was acceptable, but he chose interviews since they were open-ended, allowing the investigators to hold additional interviews if necessary.
Cosby asked Burton why all the officers including those going off shift responded to the call. Burton said, “We realized all should go out (for the shooting). We all try to help each other.”
Fry went to the scene of the first domestic disturbance call on May 9 to assist Zavala. The latter reported that Vega was intoxicated during the early evening.
When Cosby asked Zavala, the ranking officer at the shooting, why he had collected only some of the firearms for the pending officer-involved shooting investigation, Zavala said that he only needed the arms of those who had actually fired the weapons. When Cosby persisted, Zavala said, “I trust my officers. If they said they didn’t fire their weapons, they didn’t.”
Vega spoke in his own defense, saying he had no recollection of killing his son and his son’s girlfriend. He stated that when he saw the muzzle of guns, he thought they were drug dealers. The shots he fired at the police had been warning shots, and he said he had only vague recall of subsequent events.
In closing arguments, Assistant District Attorney Michael Murphy told the jurors the police had acted commendably. They arrived at the scene within minutes of the report. He noted that the recording of the incident lasted 12 minutes, starting with the arrival of police at the scene, the announcement of police presence and weapons fire which also only lasted a few minutes before Vega was wounded.
He commented there was no time to call SWAT to the scene as Cosby had suggested.
In his closing arguments, Cosby urged the jury to consider Vega’s diminished capacity at the time of the incident, as diagnosed by forensic psychologist Samuel Roll. He referred to the defendant’s desperation in wanting to evict his son and finding no help from police. He spoke of people, like Vega, who had children who were “parasites” and he said the police should be on trial today.
Deputy District Attorney Alan Griffin reminded the jury to consider the testimony of nephew Jeremy Shangraw before they went to make their decision. Shangraw testified that Vega had returned angry from jail, after being arrested for “disorderly house” that night. He said Vega came in and started loading his gun. Then Vega called a friend to say, ‘I’m gonna do it’ and then followed through on the act.
Jeremy said that after the shooting Vega told him to leave because he didn’t want his nephew to get hurt and asked him to give him (Vega) some time before he (Jeremy) called the police. This, said Griffin, indicated that Vega did have the presence of mind to understand what he had done and that he expected the arrival of the authorities.
Sentencing will take place on Sept. 26.