Trial For Drive-By Shooting Begins

Greeley Tribune
October 4, 2009

Perry Swanson

An attorney for a man accused in a fatal drive-by shooting said witnesses identified another suspect as the shooter but police did not adequately investigate that lead.

John Silva, 20, of Greeley is on trial this week and next, accused in the Sept. 29, 2001, murder of 16-year-old Robert Watson. Silva’s attorney, Derek Samuelson, told the jury Thursday the evidence against Silva is only circumstantial. One teenage boy whom police interviewed could be the shooter, but the boy lied to police to protect himself, Samuelson said. Samuelson did not identify the boy.

“John Silva did not shoot and kill Robert Watson. He did not pull the trigger ending Robert Watson’s life,” Samuelson said.

But prosecuting attorney Al Dominguez pointed to evidence he will present that he said clearly shows Silva was the shooter.

Silva and a Greeley boy, Trinidad Ramos, 16, have pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder charges in the case. Ramos’ trial is scheduled to start Nov. 12.

According to Dominguez, Silva, Ramos and other gang members drove by a party at 2002 9th St. in the early morning of Sept. 29. Silva and Ramos were in the same black Dodge Neon. Other gang members were in two other cars. The passengers in the cars and the people at the party exchanged shouts and gang signs, but the cars drove around the street.

The people at the party were members of an opposing gang, according to investigators.

On a second time around, the gang members stopped about two blocks from the party, Dominguez said. Witnesses said they saw Silva and Ramos each had a shotgun, he said. Then the three-car caravan continued toward the house, and as it passed witnesses said they saw Ramos crawl out the passenger window of the car and fire two shots toward the house.

Silva, driving with his right hand and holding a shotgun with his left hand, pointed the gun out his window and fired, Dominguez said.

“Bobby Watson goes down,” he said.

Authorities later recovered the guns from Silva’s house. Witnesses in the trial will say only Ramos and Silva had guns and were seen shooting, Dominguez said.

“The trajectory of the shots were not at the house, they could only have been directly at Bobby Watson,” Dominguez said.

But Samuelson said the prosecution lacks the evidence to put the gun in Silva’s hand at the time of the shooting. Four gang members who were at the party saw Ramos fire the shots, and two also said they saw shots coming from the third car in the caravan, a Buick Regal.

“And none of them saw any shots coming from the drivers’ side of the black Neon that John Silva was driving,” Samuelson said.

The trial began Monday, and attorneys took until Wednesday evening to select a jury. Opening statements were to begin Thursday morning, but they were delayed until mid-afternoon because some witnesses had decided not to testify — exercising their 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination, Dominguez said. Judge Roger Klein showed some impatience.

“These things should have been learned about earlier,” he said.

Samuelson appeared to use the confusion to his client’s advantage. “It’s never been a secret that we have witnesses here who, if they take the stand, could incriminate themselves for first-degree murder,” he said.