Prosecutor drops one of two charges against soldier accused in OB shooting
By: Darrell Todd Maurina
Posted: Tuesday, March 23, 2010 11:54 pm
SAINT ROBERT, Mo. (March 23, 2010) — A soldier from Fort Leonard Wood’s 94th Engineer Battalion who recently returned from Afghanistan had one of two charges against him dropped Tuesday afternoon by Pulaski County Prosecuting Attorney Deborah Hooper during a preliminary hearing.
Until today, Erick Carrasco, 22, who claims a Rolla address, faced a Class A felony charge of first-degree assault accusing him of shooting a man on Feb. 8 at OB’s Billiards in St. Robert as well as a second Class C felony charge of second-degree assault accusing him of striking a different man “in the back of the head with a gun, with such force that (the man) was knocked unconscious.”
Responding to questions from Associate Circuit Judge Colin Long during the preliminary hearing about why Hooper had not presented evidence on the second Class C felony charge, Hooper said she would be dropping the charge and had difficulty obtaining necessary witnesses. Long ruled that sufficient evidence was presented to believe Carrasco may be guilty of a felony and bound the case over to circuit court for an April 7 arraignment.
Hooper previously had the case rescheduled. Carrasco was arraigned on Feb. 9, but at the original March 9 date for his preliminary hearing, Hooper announced that she was not ready to proceed and Long granted a delay in the case over the objections of Jim Thomas, Carrasco’s defense attorney, who told the judge that he was ready to move ahead with the case.
The penalties for the two felonies are very different. Carrasco faces 10 to 30 years in state prison on the shooting charge; the lesser charge carries a maximum penalty of two to seven years in state prison or a special term of up to one year in the county jail and a $5,000 fine, with additional financial penalties if money or property had been gained through committing the crime.
During Tuesday’s preliminary hearing, Hooper questioned numerous people who had been present at the pool hall including Ashley Sier, a 19-year-old who said she hadn’t been drinking at the pool hall and remembered clearly that she came to OB’s to celebrate after the Super Bowl. Fighting began with two people arguing over racial and sexual epithets.
“He called my friend … a faggot and a nigger,” Sier said.
According to Sier, she was only a few yards away from Carrasco when he told a friend in a vehicle to “pop the hatch” of the vehicle.
“What did you see when Erick said ‘pop the hatch?’” Hooper asked.
“I saw guns being pulled out,” said Sier, who then described one man being pistol-whipped and another being shot by Carrasco. A second gun was taken by a man who was driving the vehicle, she later said in response to questions from Carrasco’s lawyer.
“I saw Brent Wagner on the ground … I felt the residue from the gun, whatever it’s called, coming out on my face and my chest,” said Sier, who then ran inside the pool hall.
Responding to questions from Thomas, Sier said there were numerous fights that had started about the same time, at least three or four, and Carrasco was not the cause of the other fights.
“I was just trying to calm things down,” Sier said. “(Another man) had started the fight because he wanted to take a girl home and she didn’t want to go.”
Sier said she didn’t think the people accused of involvement in the case were trying to avoid conflict.
“Of my knowledge they were not trying to leave,” Sier said. “My friend … was trying to tell them to leave, but (a man) was telling them to ‘pop the hatch.’”
St. Robert police officer Victor Weir said Carrasco had been found in a SUV on St. Robert Boulevard with several other people believed to be involved in the shooting, most of whom were members of Carrasco’s military unit; Weir also found a shotgun in the vehicle and a marijuana pipe in plain view.
Weir said he’s responded to fights and assaults at OB’s on prior occasions, but said he had “absolutely no idea” how many fights were going on at OB’s on the night that Carrasco is accused of shooting another man.
Other witnesses included 1st Lt. Matthew Marks, who said he’s the one who called 911 to report the fight and also saw a man put a Heineken beer bottle up his sleeve. Marks said he saw a crowd of about five to 10 people outside the pool hall, and while he didn’t see the vehicle hatch being opened or guns coming out, he observed Carrasco come up to the area from a neighboring business, Collision Masters.
“He had a handgun in his hand; I saw him hit the guy in the back of the head twice, and then the gun went off,” Marks said.
The shooting victim, Brent Wagner, chose to testify in open court regarding the incident, and in response to questions from Hooper, acknowledged that he wasn’t able to see the individual who shot him. Wagner said his memory of the night was hazy, and said while he remembers drinking, he doesn’t remember whether he used marijuana. Hooper objected to questions from Carrasco’s attorney on whether Wagner had used marijuana on other occasions.
“The last thing I remember was the score of the Super Bowl … and then I was standing by an SUV,” Wagner said. “The driver was trying to point a shotgun at me, I grabbed it to make sure it wasn’t pointed at me. Then I heard a gun cock, I let go of the shotgun to see what was happening, and then I heard and felt the shot hit me.”
Prior to being shot in the stomach, Wagner had been turning his head away from the shotgun holder in the car toward the sound of a different gun that shot him, he said.
Wagner admitted that he had talked about his testimony earlier in the day with Sier and Marks while waiting in the prosecutor’s office, but said he didn’t know either of them. Marks previously testified that Wagner was a “friend of a friend” but did not know him well.
Wagner said he had no prior connection with Carrasco or any of the others in the car.
“I didn’t know any of them; I had never seen any of them before,” Wagner said.