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Suspect in shooting of burglar released pending trial

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A homeowner who, police say, caught a group of burglars breaking into his car and fatally shot one of them will await his murder trial out of custody, a judge ruled Monday.

Mario Figueroa (MDC)

Mario Figueroa, who allegedly lied about his involvement in the case and provided a fake name to police, will instead be strictly monitored by the court's pretrial services division and must wear a GPS monitor.

As he made his detention request in a Downtown courtroom, prosecutor Joshua Jimenez described video recorded on a neighbor's surveillance system that contradicts the story Figueroa shared with police.

The 35-year-old reported shortly after the May 20 shooting that he went outside to investigate after he noticed a car parked outside his home. He saw a woman in the driver's seat of the vehicle, and two men inside his car. And he claimed that he heard multiple shots ring out as he retreated into his home to call for help.

But Jimenez said the video shows Figueroa firing at the alleged burglars as they ran away. Jacob Gearing, 31, was shot twice in the back and died blocks away.

“We have an individual who exited his home, understandably probably upset from seeing people breaking into his car, and then shot at these people as they were leaving his house – shot in the back, judge,” Jimenez said. “I'm not saying he didn't have a reason to be angry, but what was the show of force … from the perpetrators of the auto burglary?”

But Figueroa's lawyer, Marshall Ray, said that his client does not have a violent past and that it was difficult to try to “Monday morning quarterback” the situation. He emphasized that his client had been at home with his children and pregnant wife.

“This wasn't an individual out looking for trouble,” he said. “This guy was home at night, like a person is supposed to be, with their children. And yet trouble came to him in the form of three burglars who had narcotics in their possession.”

Finding that the state had not proven that Figueroa must be detained, Judge Charles Brown noted that Figueroa had not fled the jurisdiction in the two months between the shooting and his arrest, and he said there was no evidence that he was planning to hurt anyone else.

Tara Bell and Jeramey Ritter, who are accused of breaking into the car alongside Gearing, are facing auto burglary charges. Asked whether Bell and Ritter could face charges tied to Gearing's death, a spokesman for the District Attorney's Office said, “It's still early in the review of this complicated case.”

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