October 5, 2002
A witness in the trial of John Silva on Friday described the shooting that left 16-year-old Robert Watson dead. The witness, 17-year-old Jacob Martinez of Kersey, resisted implications by a defense attorney that he knew more than he was telling.
The attorney subjected Martinez to aggressive questioning because other witnesses say they saw shots coming from the car Martinez was driving. But prosecutors say all the shots came from another car, which Silva was driving. Attorney Derek Samuelson, who is representing Silva, said Martinez had the opportunity to stonewall because police did not consider him a suspect. Martinez agreed when Samuelson quoted a police investigator as saying: "Just tell me that it was John Silva and you'll be treated like a witness; you won't go to jail."
Martinez said he never told police Silva was the shooter.
Samuelson said he has witnesses who will say they saw shots coming from Martinez's car, but they haven't yet appeared in court. The trial lasts through next Friday.
Watson was killed Sept. 29, 2001, as he was standing outside a party in the 2000 block of 9th Street in Greeley. A second suspect in the case is Trinidad Ramos, a Greeley teenager who police and witnesses say fired the first two shots. Both Silva and Ramos are facing first-degree murder charges. Ramos' case is set for trial starting Nov. 12.
Under questioning from Samuelson and prosecutor Al Dominguez, Martinez said he and several other gang members had been drinking the night of the shooting. He said he saw Silva looking at a shotgun. The gang members drove in three cars to the party on 9th Street. Martinez was driving in the rear in a blue Buick Regal. Silva was driving the middle car, a black Dodge Neon.
As they passed the party the first time, people in the cars whistled, taunting the people at the party, who were members of a rival gang. "The people from the house were running to our cars, throwing rocks at our cars," Martinez said.
The caravan continued, and it stopped a few blocks away at an Ace Hardware store, Martinez said. Then they continued and passed the party again.
"I seen Bubba come out of the window and lean over the roof of the car and start shooting," Martinez said, using the gang name for Ramos.
Martinez said he saw Ramos shoot twice and heard other shots but he wasn't sure where they came from. He looked at the house and saw Watson had fallen to the ground. He initially said Silva had a shotgun, but later said he hadn't actually seen Silva with the gun.
About two weeks after the shooting, Samuelson said Martinez was brought to court on menacing charges because he had been chasing someone with a handgun. The case was transferred to juvenile court, and Martinez is now on juvenile probation, Samuelson said.
Silva was on parole for a similar gang shooting. A month before his 17th birthday in 1998, Silva shot at two vehicles at 14th Avenue and 5th Street. No one was hurt. Samuelson pressed Martinez on whether police pressure to accuse Silva of the murder had amounted to a way for him to stay out of trouble. "You say you haven't been promised anything?" Samuelson said. "But you haven't been prosecuted in this case either, have you, for first-degree murder?"