ALAMOSA— An Alamosa jury on Wednesday found Henry Lovato, 46, guilty of first-degree assault in relation to the shooting of Mario Ortega at 1111 Railroad Ave. on December 29, 2017.
Lovato was initially charged with attempted murder.
The prosecution and defense both presented to the court in their closing arguments the facts that were considered indisputable in the case.
It was clear from all testimony presented that Lovato and Ortega were acquaintances. It was also clear that these individuals had a prior arrangement for the use of Lovato’s tools for the purpose of repairing a car. A dispute then arose between Ortega and Lovato over payment for the use of the tools. The situation continued to escalate and Lovato asked Ortega to take the vehicle somewhere else and leave. However, as pointed out by District Attorney Crista Newmyer-Olsen, the vehicle was not drivable at the time. Ortega did not leave and continued to work on the vehicle, and animosity between the parties began to mount even more. Ortega also admitted to briefly choking Lovato.
During the dispute, Lovato’s son Jadon arrived at the scene on his bicycle. While it is still unclear who confronted whom, Ortega and Jadon Lovato exchanged words and then engaged in a physical altercation. Jadon Lovato claimed that Ortega was choking him as well.
It was during this time that Henry Lovato went back inside his home, unlocked the room where he stores his firearms, and came back outside with a loaded shotgun, according to testimony. Eyewitnesses agreed that the first shot was fired into the air as a warning shot to break up the fight between Ortega and Lovato’s son. The second shot was aimed at Ortega and struck him in the leg. At this point, Ortega and the two individuals with him, Nicholas Martinez, and the owner of the vehicle, left and went to the hospital.
Henry Lovato claimed that he acted in defense of himself and his son. Lovato also claimed that he knew that Ortega had a violent history through hearsay when he testified. He also claimed that Ortega had been in a gang with his brother’s ex-wife’s brother and his nephew. The prosecution pointed out that there was no substance to these claims. The claims were, however, allowed as evidence in the case.
Ortega and Martinez both freely admitted to the court that they had criminal records. However the crimes were not violent crimes. Ortega’s charge was criminal impersonation in 2017.
The prosecution argued that Henry Lovato could have easily called the police in the time it took him to retrieve the firearm due to the fact that he did have a working cellphone in his possession. It was also argued that Lovato clearly acted beyond what would be considered reasonable or lawful. Newmyer-Olsen articulated that the fight was beginning to break up and that Lovato fired an unmerited shot at Ortega that also happened to be in the direction of his own son and that the shots were out of anger, not fear.
The defense from the Public Defender’s Office argued that Henry Lovato did nothing more and nothing less than what was required of him to stop the situation because his family and property were being threatened. The defense also urged the jury to consider Lovato’s state of mind and the fact that he is a very sick man and had recently had a triple bypass surgery at the time of the incident.
Following the closing arguments, the jury proceeded to deliberations. The conviction came within a few hours. There was also the question before the jury of the crime being committed in the heat of passion and the jury’s answer was “No.”