Diaz Evans trial continued to March 7
WILLMAR -- The jury trial for the 26-year-old Willmar man accused of firing shots at a Willmar police officer has been continued to March 7.
Jury selection had been slated to begin Friday for Leroy Diaz Evans, who faces nine felony charges in connection to the Sept. 15 incident. The charges include eight first-degree burglary and aggravated robbery counts, plus a charge of first-degree attempted murder of a peace officer, which is punishable by up to life in prison.
The trial schedule has also been expanded from five to eight days before District Judge Kathryn N. Smith in Kandiyohi County District Court.
The trial is now scheduled to begin the same day that Arcadio Salinas Jr., 23, of Willmar, will be sentenced for aiding and abetting first-degree attempted robbery for his role in the incident. Salinas had informed Diaz Evan's attorney Brad Kluver that Salinas intended to claim his fifth-amendment rights against self incrimination if he was called as a defense witness before his sentencing.
"It is extremely important for Mr. Salinas to testify," Kluver said Monday during a pretrial hearing. "He is an essential witness in a very important case."
Salinas entered an Alford plea to the charge. Under an Alford plea, a defendant does not admit his guilt, but admits there is enough evidence against him for a conviction. He was not granted immunity by the prosecution.
The other defendant in the case, Jesus Trevino, 33, of Willmar, pleaded guilty Feb. 4 to first-degree burglary. As part of his plea agreement, he agreed to testify against Diaz Evans, according to assistant County Attorney Shane Baker. He will be sentenced March 28.
The plea agreements by Salinas and Trevino make it apparent that prosecutors believe that Diaz Evans is solely responsible for firing shots from a vehicle as police officers arrived at a Second Street Southeast residence after receiving a report of a home invasion.
One bullet struck the headlight of a squad car and three others penetrated a nearby home.
Trevino testified that he wore a disguise and carried a .357-caliber handgun when he entered a residence on the 800 block of Second Street Southeast. He said he was intending to rob a man living in an apartment there. He admitted striking the man with the handle of the gun.
However, Kluver argued Monday that Trevino influenced Diaz Evans' role in the incident and that notes passed between the defendants in the jail indicated Salinas was willing to tell the truth about Trevino's role in the incident.