A 29-year-old man faces as much as life in jail after he was convicted by a jury for his function within the armed theft of a Central Lubbock restaurant 4 years in the past.
Jurors within the 364th District Courtroom deliberated for 2 and 1/2 hours earlier than returning with their verdict discovering 29-year-old Phillip Velazquez responsible as charged of aggravated theft for his function within the Jan. 27, 2017, armed theft at Picantes restaurant within the 3800 block of thirty fourth Road.
Velazquez is the ultimate defendant to be convicted within the theft. His brother, Joseph Gonzalez, was sentenced in 2019 to 60 years in jail for his function within the theft. Damian Villarreal, who testified in opposition to Gonzalez, pleaded responsible in September in trade for a 30-year jail sentence.
Each males refused to reply attorneys’ questions once they have been known as to testify at Velazquez’s trial.
Velazquez’s responsible verdict comes after jurors heard 4 days of testimony from victims of the theft, police investigators and Velazquez’s sister, who reluctantly recognized him as one of many robber whose face was captured on video from the restaurant’s safety cameras.
Video of the minute and 15 second theft was performed to jurors a number of occasions throughout the trial.
The video confirmed males enter the shop. The primary robber, recognized as Gonzalez, wore a straight-brimmed baseball cap, gloves and was seen pointing a handgun on the folks within the restaurant.
Velazquez was recognized by police because the robber in a grey hooded sweatshirt who was proper behind Gonzalez. The second robber might be seen going from one sufferer to the subsequent patting them down and taking their property. A partial view of that robber’s face was captured by the digicam.
The third robber, recognized as Villarreal, was additionally in a hooded sweatshirt and stood guard on the entrance door.
Seven folks have been robbed that night time. Nevertheless, the victims who testified in court docket advised jurors they may not establish the boys who robbed them.
As an alternative, police investigators recognized the three robbers by Crime Line ideas and corroborated info by combing by the boys’s social media accounts and talking with members of the family. Investigators additionally interviewed Villarreal, who mentioned he, Gonzalez and Velazquez deliberate the theft collectively.
Whereas Villarreal testified earlier than jurors in Gonzalez’s trial, he refused to take action in Velazquez’s trial. He additionally signed in September an affidavit recanting his statements.
Prosecutors advised jurors Villarreal was making an attempt to guard himself from being labeled a snitch whereas in jail.
Protection legal professional Nick Olguin constructed his protection round what he described as an insufficient police investigation and requested jurors to not ignore the holes within the case in opposition to his shopper.
He advised jurors in his closing arguments that police investigators did not comply with up on a press release by one of many theft victims who mentioned one of many robbers has a tattoo of a cross beneath his left eye.
Not one of the tattoos beneath Velazquez’s left eye is of a cross. As an alternative, he has tattoos of a line, three dots and the numbers 216.
“Not one of the three guys arrested for this crime have a cross tattoo underneath his left eye,” he mentioned. “You possibly can take this to the financial institution: There’s not an individual with a cross tattoo underneath his left eye that is sitting right here.”
He mentioned investigators additionally did not look into different doable suspects within the case. He advised jurors he spent an hour of going by Villarreal’s Fb account and located one individual with a cross tattoo beneath his left eye.
He additionally argued that many of the proof introduced to jurors throughout his shopper’s trial was associated to Gonzalez and that Velazquez was “responsible by affiliation.”
In the course of the trial, jurors have been proven footage from Gonzalez’s Fb profile that confirmed him sporting a ball cap and gloves just like the robber within the video. He additionally had the phrases “Evil Boys” in massive block letters tattooed on his neck. Video of the theft confirmed a tattoo peeking out from the armed robber’s collar. Jurors additionally have been confirmed an image of Gonzalez standing in entrance of an SUV that resembled the getaway car within the Picantes theft.
Nevertheless, among the many proof introduced in opposition to Velazquez was a nonetheless body from the video of the theft that confirmed the face of the second robber.
Detectives, after receiving a tip that Gonzalez was concerned within the theft, introduced that picture to Gonzalez and Velazquez’s sister, Corena Barela, who recognized Velazquez because the second robber.
“If she will confidently say, that is my brother on the video, with tears coming down, so do you have to,” prosecutor Barron Slack advised jurors.
On Thursday, Velazquez stood in entrance of jurors whereas the nonetheless body of the robber’s face was projected on a display behind him.
Lubbock police Lt. Chris Jenkins, who led the investigation, advised jurors Velazquez shared the identical cheek bones, nostril construction, eye form and lips because the robber.
Olguin advised jurors that these options have been shared by many Hispanic males.
“I’ve 76 cousins, and I wager half of them have the identical traits that Phillip Velazquez has,” he mentioned.
Prosecutor Courtney Boyd in her closing arguments identified to jurors modifications in Velazquez’s look within the 4 years because the theft saying it was a tactic to confuse them.
“He has been actively chancing his look since this crime occurred 4 years in the past,” she mentioned.
Velazquez sat in court docket throughout the trial sporting lengthy curly, hair that fell previous his shoulder and extra tattoos. In the meantime, jurors have been proven pictures from his social media accounts shortly earlier than the theft that confirmed he sported a virtually shaven head.
“That’s how he stored his hair up till 4 years in the past,” she mentioned.
Boyd mentioned the assertion Leticia Palos gave police concerning the robber having a cross tattoo was a end result her reminiscence being obscured by a distressing occasion.
“The purpose isn’t that the tattoo isn’t a cross, however that he does have a tattoo,” Boyd mentioned. “That is what Leti noticed that day. Leti noticed what she might see when she was underneath a traumatic occasion.”
She advised jurors there was no proof that linked the theft to different doable suspects Olguin recommended. One of many males had been posting about puppies the day of the theft, whereas one other had a big tattoo on his hand that might have been seen on digicam, whereas the third man was in jail on one other county.
“It is simply smoke and mirrors,” she mentioned.
The punishment part of the trial begins at the moment as Velazquez selected the jury to find out his sentence.