Wednesday, June 9, 2004
INDEPENDENCE -- An Independence man accused of opening fire on a group of people during a verbal dispute will appear in Polk County Circuit Court Thursday, June 10.
Eligio Meraz-Magana, 21, faces three counts of attempted murder and three counts of first-degree attempted assault.
He's currently being held on $100,000 bail at Polk County Jail.
If convicted of attempted murder, a Class A felony, Meraz-Magana could spend up to 90 months in prison for each of the three counts. Attempted assault with a firearm carries a minimum five-year sentence.
Meraz-Magana allegedly fired several shots at a vehicle carrying three men he was arguing with May 30 outside his apartment complex at 800 S. Fourth St. in Independence, police said.
Nobody was injured in the incident.
An acquaintance of Meraz-Magana's was also arrested at the scene. Armando Jose Olague, 23, was involved in the dispute leading up to the shooting, and was cited by police for disorderly conduct.
Meraz-Magana could be arraigned at a preliminary hearing June 10 if a grand jury decides to indict him, said Chief Deputy District Attorney Mark Heslinga.
At Meraz-Magana's first court appearance June 3, defense attorney Jeff Jones of Salem presented information in an attempt to reduce his client's bail from $100,000 to $50,000.
Meraz-Magana has been an Independence resident for six years, had no prior criminal history and was not considered a flight risk, Jones said.
Circuit Court Judge Charles Luukinen denied the request, citing concern about the "egregious nature" of the alleged crime and the safety of the community.
Independence police Sgt. Bob Mason said the department characterized the incident as a dispute gone wrong, though during a search of Meraz-Magana's home, officers did find a photo of him displaying a gun, "glamorizing the gang-look."
Mason said none of those caught up in the shooting were affiliated with a gang, but that the situation did have "an underlying tone of gang involvement."
He also said there's been an increase in gang activity with summer drawing near.
The shooting originated with blows
between Meraz-Magana and another individual at a dance in Amity the previous evening. According to the police report, Independence residents Ignancio Peraza Cisneros, Juventino Pedraza Hernandez and Mario Rodarte Gonzales drove a Ford Ranger pickup past Meraz-Megana's home twice about 7:30 a.m. May 30.
They were looking for Cisneros' brother, one of the men who took part in the fight the night before.
As Meraz-Magana and several other men left the apartment, they saw the group in the truck at the corner of Fourth and H streets.
Olague grabbed on to the passenger's door and challenged the three to a fight.
During the ensuing argument, Meraz-Magana allegedly brandished a 9mm Sig pistol. As Hernandez tried to drive away, Meraz-Magana fired at least five rounds at the truck -- one of them shattering the rear window.
A witness said she heard the gunshots and saw Meraz-Magana's brown Honda leave the apartment complex shortly after the incident.
A second witness said he saw another man picking up objects from the street after the shooting -- shell casings, which were later found by police about a block away from the scene.
Cisneros, Hernandez and Gonzales drove to a location on G Street to survey the damage to the truck, but fled on foot when Meraz-Magana pulled into the parking lot. Meraz-Magana slashed three of the tires on the Ranger.
Officers arrested Meraz-Magana that morning at his home, where they found another shell casing from the shooting.
During an interview at the police station, Meraz-Magana claimed that Gonzales had fired shots at him from the truck first, but later said he never actually saw a gun.
There's no indication in the incident report that Gonzales ever had or fired a weapon during the dispute.
Police eventually retrieved Meraz-Magana's pistol at a home off Gun Club Road.
He confessed that he had given the weapon to an acquaintance to keep, but not before first telling officers he'd thrown it into the Willamette River and then that he sold it at flea market in Salem.