Trial begins in 2019 fatal shooting of UNM athlete - Albuquerque Journal

Trial begins in 2019 fatal shooting of UNM athlete

Darian Bashir , left, and his attorney Robert Aragon are seen in court on the first day of his trial for the 2019 murder of UNM baseball player Jackson Weller outside of a Nob Hill bar. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

Darian Bashir fatally shot a University of New Mexico baseball player out of fear and outrage as two college athletes pursued him and made emotionally charged slurs, his attorney told jurors in opening statements Wednesday.

Prosecutors, however, allege that Bashir drove to the scene and shot Jackson Weller to exact revenge for an earlier fight between the athletes and a close friend of Bashir’s.

The first-degree murder trial of Bashir, 25, for the 2019 shooting death of Weller outside a Nob Hill nightclub got underway Wednesday.

Police found Weller lying in the street at Central and Richmond with a gunshot wound to his chest. He was pronounced dead at a hospital.

Deputy District Attorney John Duran told jurors Bashir confronted Weller and a second UNM baseball player, then shot Weller at close range in the chest.

Prosecutors showed jurors security video of the street outside the Imbibe nightclub that showed the fatal shooting on May 4, 2019.

“Darian Bashir arrives after the fight in his Mercedes and leaves it parked in such a way that allows easy escape,” Duran said.

“Bashir asked Jack (Weller) if he was in the fight,” Duran said. “He wants to make sure he gets the right person so he knows who to kill.”

Weller and the second UNM baseball player “are already walking away when the shooter lured him back to ask that question,” he said.

The video appears to show a man shoot Weller once in the chest. After the attack, Duran said, Bashir jumped into his car and drove away through an alley.

“This was a preplanned, premeditated act of murder,” Duran told the 2nd Judicial District Court jury.

Weller and several friends, including two other UNM baseball players, went to the nightclub following a game against Air Force.

While at the club, Weller and his friends got into a fight with three other men who included a man Bashir had known since childhood, prosecutors allege. Bashir was not present during the fight but arrived a short time later.

Bashir’s attorney, Robert Aragon, interpreted the security video differently for jurors.

Aragon acknowledged that Bashir fired the shot that killed Weller, but only after Weller and a second athlete took 10 steps in pursuit of Bashir and directed insults at him.

Aragon noted that Bashir is African American. He alleged that the athletes made emotionally charged “slurs” that provoked Bashir.

“What the video doesn’t show you is what was said,” Aragon said. “There were socially unacceptable statements made toward Mr. Bashir.”

Bashir fired the fatal shot at Weller because he felt threatened by “two Division 1, well-conditioned athletes” following him, Aragon said.

Bashir also felt outrage “after those slurs were directed at him,” he said.

The athletes were drinking and “may have had a few too many,” which may have clouded their judgment, Aragon told jurors. After the fight at the nightclub, the video showed Weller punch a utility box, apparently in anger.

Prosecutors say they have four witnesses that can identify Bashir as the gunman.

Bashir’s trial was originally scheduled in August but attorneys failed to seat the required 12 jurors, prompting state District Judge Cindy Leos to declare a mistrial.

Weller’s death has spurred discussions about changes to the criminal justice system.

Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller and 2nd Judicial District Attorney Raúl Torrez said in the days after the shooting that Bashir should have been in jail while awaiting trial on prior charges.

Court records show Bashir had previous encounters with law officers in connection with gun-related crimes.

In September 2017, police said, Bashir shot a young man in the stomach in Albuquerque’s Downtown bar district. The man was seriously injured but survived.

A spokesman for the DA’s office later said that prosecution mistakes and missed deadlines resulted in the case’s dismissal in January 2019.

In February 2019, Bashir was accused of firing an assault rifle from a car at another vehicle.

The DA’s Office asked that Bashir be held in jail pending trial, but a judge denied the request, releasing Bashir on his own recognizance in March 2019, just eight weeks before Weller’s killing.

Bashir pleaded no contest in December 2019 to shooting at or from a motor vehicle and contributing to the delinquency of a minor, court records show.

The plea agreement in that case calls for him to receive up to three years in prison. A sentencing hearing has not been scheduled.

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