Attorneys Make Closing Arguments in Thanksgiving Shooting Trial

Gun shell casing at crime scene. Gun violence, mass shooting and homicide investigation concept.

Photo: Getty Images

SANTA ANA (CNS) - A 42-year-old man played ``judge, jury and executioner'' when he opened fire on a pickup truck full of six friends and cousins in a road-rage dispute in Costa Mesa on Thanksgiving Day, a prosecutor argued to jurors, while the defendant's attorney made the case that his client was defending himself and should be acquitted of murder.

Lee Queuon Walker is charged with one count of murder and five counts of attempted murder with sentencing enhancements for discharge of a gun causing death and inflicting great bodily injury on the victims. Walker is accused of fatally shooting 30-year-old Lucas Rivera-Velasco of Costa Mesa on Nov. 24, 2022, at 423 W. Bay St. Also wounded in the shooting were Salvador Pulido-Nieto, Bernardo Millan-Pulido, Hugo Medina-Rivera and Gilberto Mediina-Rivera, while Jaime Nieto-Millan escaped injury.

``Judge, jury and executioner,'' Senior Deputy District Attorney Dan Feldman said Monday, pointing to Walker during the prosecutor's closing argument. The victims worked as gardeners and landscapers and spent a rare day off on the holiday watching soccer, drinking and dining at Costa Brava restaurant in Costa Mesa, Feldman said.

``The unarmed friends and family members struck his mirror and startled him so what was his first choice? He grabbed a gun,'' Feldman said. ``Mr. Walker made the choice to get out of his car ... and confront them. When they gave him a `get the (expletive) out of my face look that was it. First they startled him, then they insulted him. He pounced. You saw it yourself. He didn't walk, he ran to confront them ... with the gun pulled back to his side and racked a round so he'd be ready because he decided this is going down. They were going to pay.''

Walker and his girlfriend, Denise Segura, were searching for an open McDonald's on the holiday because their 4-year-old son craved chicken nuggets, Feldman said. After their third failed try, they crossed paths with Rivera-Velasco and the others when the 2003 Chevrolet Silverado they were in clipped Walker's 2021 Chevrolet Silverado and the side-view mirror snapped out of place before popping back into place, Feldman said. Walker followed the other vehicle and when it was in a left turn lane on 19th Street to go north on Harbor Boulevard the defendant jumped out of his pickup truck and dashed over to them and ``pounded on the window,'' according to Feldman. Walker testified that he saw two guns in the pickup truck and the six men.

``He told you it was his right to go and follow them, to stand his ground,'' Feldman said. ``That is a poor, unfortunate reading of the law that might be found in a legal dictionary. It's like people with their WebMD and self-diagnosing.'' Feldman also pointed to the defendant's claim that he had a ``warrior instinct'' in the moment.

Walker testified it meant he was in a fight-or-flight mode and ``I was not about to run.'' Feldman said Walker's claim of fearing imminent danger made no sense, as he kept following the men and when their vehicle pulled over he got out, scampered over to the passenger side and opened fire on the victims before taking an extra shot to Rivera-Velasco's head and then dashing back to grab the hat that flew off his head.

``The danger was so great he had time to go back and get his hat,'' Feldman said sarcastically. ``He waited for them to get out. If the danger is so great why let them get out?'' Jurors may consider a full-on self-defense claim that would lead to acquittal, but they also have the option to consider lesser charges of voluntary and involuntary manslaughter, which would require a buy-in to an argument of what lawyers consider ``imperfect defense,'' which means the defendant believed he was in danger but acted in a way that was unreasonable.

``The law is not on his side,'' Feldman said. `` A person does not have a right to self-defense if he provokes a fight with the intent to create an excuse to use force.'' Feldman scoffed at Walker's claim that he got out of his vehicle intending to try again to ``exchange information'' for the insurance companies. The prosecutor noted he ran over to the passenger side, not the driver's side. Segura took a picture of the pickup truck as she implored the defendant to cease following the group, Feldman said. After the shooting, ``Mr. Walker told (Segura) to delete that photo,'' which indicates consciousness of guilt, Feldman said. Walker's attorney, Randall Bethune of the Orange County Public Defender's Office, acknowledged that his client could have stopped following the pickup truck, ``But that is not the legal standard. That does not address the issue of whether he was justified.'' Walker was the victim of a crime when the other truck hit his vehicle and he had a right to pursue someone leaving the scene of an accident, Bethune argued.

``He didn't know it was minor damage,'' Bethune said. ``He told them you hit my car. They chose to ignore him. They look at him and keep going. From his perspective, the right thing to do is to talk about this ... Objectively, they are not following the law.'' Bethune also said the driver, Gilberto Medina-Rivera, was driving drunk. ``Mr. Walker sees who's in the car and he testifies he sees two guns. That heightens the danger,'' Bethune argued. ``From his perspective the danger is imminent and growing and growing.'' The group was dropping off Nieto-Millan, who lived where the pickup truck stopped, but that wasn't all they were doing, Bethune argued. Also, the defendant did not know Nieto-Millan lived at that address or why they were pulling over, Bethune said.

``From his perspective they're slowing down to confront him or slowing down to get behind him,'' Bethune argued. ``His concern is they're going to confront him ... and then something happened that he didn't intend.'' Walker opened fire as Rivera-Velasco ``was coming toward him,'' Bethune argued. ``That is when he used force and that is reasonable.''   Hugo Medina-Rivera ``was right behind him,'' Bethune said. ``Is he supposed to wait till he's attacked? If your wife and child are in the truck why would you want to wait till they come to you?''

Sponsored Content

Sponsored Content