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Attorneys described a wild scene with multiple people firing guns the night a 17-year-old Sandia High School student was fatally shot outside a homecoming party in Northeast Albuquerque in 2019.
The prosecution and defense delivered opening statements Wednesday in the first-degree murder trial of Izaiah Garcia, 20, who is charged with fatally shooting Sean Markey.
“This party starts to spiral out of control,” said Nicole Moss, Garcia’s attorney. “Gunshots erupted up and down the street. There were guns going off all over that neighborhood.”
Moss told jurors that prosecutors will not be able to show that Garcia fired the bullet that killed Markey because at least seven people were firing guns that night in the 3900 block of Garcia NE, near Montgomery and Eubank.
At least five were 9mm guns, which is the type that fatally struck Markey, Moss said.
“We actually don’t know how many guns were fired on Garcia Street that night,” Moss said. “We just know that it was a lot.”
In a separate case, Garcia is charged with first-degree murder in the 2019 shooting death of Cayla Campos, 21, of Albuquerque who was playing Pokémon GO with her boyfriend when her car was sprayed with bullets.
Campos was killed on Oct. 18, 2019, less than three weeks after Markey’s killing. A trial in that case is scheduled to begin in December in 2nd Judicial District Court.
In the trial that began this week, Garcia is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Markey, a Sandia High senior who police say was a bystander and not the intended target of the shooting.
Joseph Taylor, a companion of Markey’s, testified Wednesday that shortly before the shooting, he and Markey left the party and were sitting on a rock near the intersection of Garcia and James Place NE waiting for a ride.
When gunfire erupted, the two ran south, Taylor said. After running some distance, Markey said he had been shot and fell to his knees, Taylor told jurors.
Taylor said he rode with Markey to Presbyterian Kaseman Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Garcia also is charged with aggravated assault for allegedly shooting at a second man identified in the indictment as Christian Mattock.
Deputy District Attorney John Duran told jurors in his opening statement that Mattock was the intended target of the shooting.
Garcia had a years-old dispute with Mattock that started when they both were students at Manzano High School, Duran said.
“Izaiah Garcia hated Christian Mattock,” he said. “It was a palpable and real dislike.”
The dispute turned violent on Sept. 29, 2019, after both men arrived at the homecoming party.
“There were a ton of kids there,” Duran said. “It was intended to be a small party. It turned from a small burn into a wildfire.”
A Sandia student hosted the party following a homecoming dance at the school. It turned violent after word of the party circulated on social media and uninvited people showed up, including several with guns, Duran said.
“There were a lot of guns at this party” with partygoers dancing and waving guns, he said.
After Mattock left the party, Garcia confronted him in the street, Duran said. When gunfire erupted elsewhere in the neighborhood, Garcia drew a handgun and began shooting at Mattock, he said.
“He uses the opportunity of that gunfire,” he said of Garcia. “He manifests his hatred. He sees his chance.”
Duran showed the jury security video that he said shows Mattock running down the street with Garcia in pursuit, firing a pistol.
Several of those gunshots ricocheted off a concrete driveway, Duran said. One of those bullets struck Markey as he and a friend were sitting on a landscaping rock waiting for a ride home, Duran said.
Garcia’s attorney countered that the prosecution’s case is flawed, in part because so many people were firing guns it is impossible to know who fired the fatal round. She said the gun used to kill Markey has not been recovered.
Moss called it “an inconvenient truth” that prosecutors can’t explain.
“Who killed Sean Markey?” Moss asked jurors. “That’s a question that will not be answered during this trial.”
Investigators took a “tunnel view” that focused on Garcia and ignored other explanations, Moss said. She contends that police failed to identify two other men who arrived at the party with Garcia.
Cocaine, marijuana and alcohol all were consumed at the party, and partygoers who testify may be unreliable witnesses, she warned jurors.
“What does that do to your memory?” she asked.
Moss also contends that witnesses have said that Garcia was wearing a dark hoodie the night of the shooting, but security video shows him wearing a T-shirt when he arrived at the party.