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Shooting suspect may seek continuance

WILLMAR -- Jury selection is scheduled to begin Friday in the trial of the 26-year-old Willmar man accused of firing shots at a Willmar police officer last September.

However, Leroy Diaz Evans may ask that his five-day trial before District Judge Kathryn Smith be continued until after a key defense witness, and another defendant in the case, is sentenced.

During a pre-trial hearing Monday, Brad Kluver, Diaz Evans' attorney, informed the court he'd received a letter from the attorney for Arcadio Salinas Jr., 23, of Willmar.

Salinas on Friday entered an Alford plea for aiding and abetting first-degree attempted robbery for his role in the Sept. 15 incident.

Under an Alford plea, a defendant does not admit his guilt, but admits there is enough evidence against him for a conviction.

Kluver said Salinas is claiming his fifth-amendment rights against self incrimination until his sentencing March 7.

"It is extremely important for Mr. Salinas to testify," Kluver said. "He is an essential witness in a very important case."

The other defendant in the case, Jesus Trevino, 33, of Willmar, pleaded guilty Friday to first-degree burglary. As part of his plea agreement, he agreed to testify against Diaz Evans, according to assistant County Attorney Shane Baker.

The prosecution has not offered immunity to Salinas because there is no basis for it, Baker told Judge Smith.

Kluver noted during the hearing that he would seek to move Salinas' sentencing date to before his testimony in the trial.

The attorneys also reviewed the current plea offer from the prosecution, which is that Diaz Evans enter a guilty plea to first-degree attempted murder of a peace officer and be sentenced to more than 16 years in prison.

In return, the other eight felony counts -- use of deadly force against a peace officer, first-degree burglary and aggravated robbery --would be dismissed. The maximum penalty for the first-degree attempted murder charge is life in prison.

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.

Trevino's sentencing is March 28.

Gretchen Schlosser

Gretchen Schlosser is the public safety reporter, and writes about agriculture occasionally, for the West Central Tribune. She's been with the Tribune since 2006 and has 17 years of experience working in news, media and communications. 

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