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DA drops charges in 2018 shooting

Police talk to onlookers following a shooting that left a man in critical condition Friday night. (Roberto Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Prosecutors have dropped several charges against a teenager accused of taking part in a shooting that left another teen paralyzed after an interview with the person shot contradicted the Albuquerque Police Department’s investigation.

The 2nd Judicial District Attorney’s Office dismissed five charges against 17-year-old Kalani “Trips” Hodges – including attempted murder – after Vicente Sanchez, 16, said he tried to rob Hodges before being shot on Sept. 20 in the Whole Foods store parking lot at Carlisle and Indian School.

According to a dismissal motion filed by Hodges’ defense attorney, Sanchez told prosecutors he put a gun to Hodges’ head, at one point firing it, and gave the gun to a friend to hide after he was shot – allegedly by Hodges’ accomplice.

Kalani Hodges, 17 (BCJDYSC)

“These counts are dismissed without prejudice pending investigation into possible self-defense claims,” according to Assistant District Attorney Joshua Jimenez.

The DA’s office also dismissed a charge of unlawful carrying of a handgun by a person under 19 after Hodges’ defense argued the gun he had during the shooting was a starter pistol, used for races, and not classified as a handgun.

“The acts of the shooter were in the defense of Kalani Hodges, the acts of the shooter were justified according to law,” according to Hodges’ defense attorney Lisa Torraco.

Hodges’ alleged accomplice and the person who police say shot Sanchez that night, 23-year-old Matthew Delena, still faces all the same charges and one additional, contributing to the delinquency of a minor, for allegedly involving Hodges in the shooting.

Along with Delena, Delena’s girlfriend, Leticia Nicolet, 19, and Seven Long, 15, Hodges still faces charges in a separate shooting – including murder and unlawful carrying of a handgun by a person under 19 – that took the life of Adrian Martinez on Sept. 9 in Southeast Albuquerque.

Over a two-month stretch, police say these incidents were orchestrated by Delena, Hodges, Long and Nicolet to execute perceived gang rivals under the guise of drug deals. Delena, Nicolet and Long are also facing charges in an Aug. 22 shooting at a Northeast Albuquerque apartment complex that left Aneas Price, 17, blind.

The revelations about the Sanchez shooting surfaced during an hourlong interview June 24 at the DA’s office, according to the defense’s dismissal motion. Sanchez told prosecutors he was looking for weed on Snapchat and connected with either Delena or Hodges to buy some.

Court records state Sanchez said he walked up to Delena’s car at Whole Foods with a handgun, pointed it at Hodges’ head and said, “give me all the weed.” Sanchez said he fired the gun at least once and didn’t see Hodges with the starter pistol or think he was armed.

According to the defense’s dismissal motion, Sanchez told prosecutors he pulled a gun first and that everyone in the car had a “reasonable belief” that he was going to kill Hodges.

“So while the state made numerous false claims about the violent nature of Mr. Hodges, the evidence shows that the state has created unnecessary hype and wrongfully accused Mr. Hodges for this shooting,” according to Hodges’ defense attorney.

Security camera video shows Vicente Sanchez and others walking up to Matthew Delena's car in the parking lot of the Whole Foods Market on Carlisle moments before the shooting began. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

Security camera video shows Vicente Sanchez and others walking up to Matthew Delena’s car in the parking lot of the Whole Foods Market on Carlisle moments before the shooting began. (Albuquerque Police Department)

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