By Katherine Coviello and Sahaily Zazueta
RIVERSIDE, CA – In the Riverside County Superior Court murder trial Monday of Thomas Ryan Scott, the victim’s friend and witness of the incident—Leandro Pacheco—testified.
Scott is on trial for the shooting death of an 18-year-old victim in the early morning hours of Aug. 28, 2016, in Riverside. Scott is representing himself in court.
The eyewitness who took the stand stated he was the victim’s friend and had known him from high school.
Deputy District Attorney Kevin Beecham began his questioning by asking the witness if he and the victim were part of a street gang, which the witness denied.
DDA Beecham then asked the witness to describe the events of the evening of Aug. 27, 2016, leading into the morning of Aug. 28.
The eyewitness recounted that he was hanging out with the victim and two other friends in front of the Lucky One liquor store on Arlington Avenue “drinking beers and being kids” at around 5 p.m.
The witness stated that an unknown man in front of the liquor store purchased alcohol for him and his friends, who were underage. The witness described how the man offered to drive him and his friends to a party in Orange County, but they did not end up going to this party because of traffic.
The man drove the witness, the victim, and another friend to another liquor store where he purchased more alcohol, before driving the teens back to Riverside.
The eyewitness stated that he was very intoxicated at that point in the evening. When asked if he could remember how much alcohol consumed, the witness said that he did not know.
When they arrived in Riverside at around 1 a.m., he said, they stopped at the Lucky One liquor store. The unknown man left the group of teens to talk to another man, and the teens began to head east on Arlington Avenue, toward the Central Community Christian Church.
The witness and the victim both had skateboards, and the third friend did not.
The witness recalled that as the three friends cut through the parking lot of the church, a man with a gun ran up to them.
The witness told the court that the victim asked the armed man, “What’s crackin’?” to which the armed man responded, “Do we have a problem?” The victim tried to calm the man down by repeating, “No, chill dog.”
The witness described that the victim had both of his arms out in front of him, with his skateboard in his left hand.
The witness stated that the armed man fired one warning shot straight up into the air and that the victim then tried to lunge for the man’s gun. Five to 10 seconds after the warning shot, the man fired a second shot at the victim.
After he was shot, the victim walked 10 yards away before falling to the ground, the witness testified, describing how the shooter then put his gun down and walked away, heading north on Phoenix Avenue.
The witness told DDA Beecham that he assumed the gun was a revolver because he did not see any casings ejected from the gun.
DA Beecham asked the witness to describe the shooter. The witness stated that the shooter was taller than him, and that he is 5’10. He stated that the shooter was wearing a hoodie, but he could not see the shooter’s face, race or build. The witness could not recall if the shooter had been wearing pants or shorts.
DA Beecham asked the witness if he had previously stated that the shooter was Hispanic. The witness denied making that statement.
When asked if he had ever heard of Thomas Ryan Scott, the witness stated, “Never heard of that person.”
DA Beecham asked if the witness knew where the man who was arrested in this case lived. The witness replied, “Yes, because they told me that they raided a house down the street from me.”
The witness stated he remembered seeing a man near that same house later in the day on Aug. 28.
The witness stated that the way this man walked looked familiar. He stated that this man’s walk was similar to the shooter’s walk. This man was the same man who was later arrested in connection to this case.
DA Beecham stated that when the detective asked the witness how tall the shooter was, the witness told the detective that the shooter was approximately 5’8”. The witness denied that, stating “No, if anything I told him he was taller than me.”
When the witness read the transcript of his interview with the detective, the witness noted that his response to the detective asking about the shooter’s height was, “No, he’s probably like 5’8.” The witness told DDA Beecham that he did not remember saying that at all.
Scott, the defendant, then stepped up to cross-examine Pacheco, and started by questioning any lapses in Pacheco’s memory, mainly regarding the description of the shooter.
Pacheco firmly stated that the length of time between the incident and the trial was the biggest factor in any gaps and not the result of alcohol or any substances.
The witness was then more closely examined regarding the interaction with the shooter.
“You said that the shooter came running up and had the gun pulled out on him and your friend …?” Scott said, in the form of a question to the witness.
“He didn’t point. He just ran up to us with the gun,” Pacheco responded. “We were all telling Luis to stop walking towards him and Luis kept telling the guy to relax. To chill.”
Pacheco described the shooter’s behavior. “I just kept on hearing him say, ‘Back up. Do we have a problem?’” Later, the eyewitness described that the shooter asked them to back up three times.
Scott then continued by asking if the witness had blamed himself for the shooting.
“Yes. Because I’m the one who invited them that day,” he responded.
Scott continued by questioning him about how the group of friends were considering robbing drug dealers and using .22 handguns. The witness denied planning to use guns, but agreed regarding robberies.
Scott asked Pacheco if he knew who Thomas Ryan Scott is, and Pacheco responded, “No.” Scott then asked, “What about me? Do you know who I am?” Again, Pacheco responded, “No.”
Scott asked Pacheco, “Have you ever seen me before?” Pacheco answered, “No, not that I remember.”
Scott went on to inquire if two of the witnesses had been separated by the police at the time of the incident or if they had discussed it since. The eyewitness said they had been separated immediately, but the teenagers had discussed the events of that night after the incident.
The questioning then was directed toward the acronym “SDP” which stood for “smoke, drink, paint.” The witness claimed it was not used to signify a group, but rather was a description of activities because they loved to draw.
After this line of examination, Scott circled back to why the witness didn’t continue his initial pursuit of the shooter. The witness responded by questioning why a person would follow someone with a gun.
Finally, Scott and the witness discussed one other witness who was passing by, someone described as tall and heavy set, but Pacheco admitted he would not be able to identify him at this time.
“He looked like he was shocked about what he just walked into,” Pacheco stated.
Pacheco will return to Riverside County Court Tuesday to finish his testimony.