Crime - Sacto 911

Prosecution witness admits lying, denies shooting 3-year-old

Jorge Azios prays at the corner of Loucreta Drive and Palmer House Drive, which is near Florin and Power Inn Roads, where his son Jorge Azios III, 3, was shot and killed.
Jorge Azios prays at the corner of Loucreta Drive and Palmer House Drive, which is near Florin and Power Inn Roads, where his son Jorge Azios III, 3, was shot and killed. Sacramento Bee file

A defense attorney on Thursday said a prosecutor’s key witness repeatedly lied to authorities to protect himself and leave his friends facing a murder charge in the Independence Day 2012 shooting death of 3-year-old Jorge Azios III.

Testimony continued Thursday in the murder trial of Gabriel Quintero, Eric Minjares and Marcus Weber in Sacramento Superior Court before Judge Eugene Balonon. The three are accused of firing on an SUV driven by the victim’s father, Jorge Azios, on Loucreta Drive late on July 4, 2012, killing the sleeping boy inside.

Testifying was Anthony Canales, whose world of gang-banging led to life in another state under California Department of Justice witness protection. Canales said he reluctantly lent his white Ford Expedition to Quintaro, Minjares and Weber at a party in south Sacramento July 4, 2012, to buy marijuana. The three returned to the party about an hour later bragging that they had shot Azios’ car, he said.

Authorities traced the Expedition back to Canales the following day and brought him in for questioning. By then, Canales said he had already heard from friends in frantic phone calls and text messages telling him not to drive the white Expedition.

He first told detectives he went to the party alone for fear of being labeled a snitch and the “death” penalty that could bring. He later placed Quintaro, Minjares and subsequently Weber at the shooting scene.

“In the first interview, I was trying to save him,” Canales testified of Weber. “But, I knew that none of them would do that for me.”

Defense attorneys insist Canales killed young Azios, pointing to DNA and fingerprint tests that showed no evidence their clients were in Canales’ car. They say Canales plotted against Alfonso Martinez, Azios’ brother, for shooting Canales in the hand in a gunbattle at a Florin Road intersection in July 2011.

So you lied to protect yourself. How many lies did you tell? You can’t even count because it was lie after lie after lie.

Defense attorney Jesse Ortiz, to prosecution witness Anthony Canales

Canales was arrested and served a six-month stretch in Sacramento for gun possession after Sacramento police recovered a .45-caliber handgun. After his release, Canales learned Martinez had swapped the black GMC Envoy used in gunfight for a burgundy Ford Expedition.

Canales also told Sacramento County Deputy District Attorney Jeff Hightower that he was on the lookout for the Ford after the incident, but denied firing the shots that killed Jorge Azios III.

On the stand, Canales admitted he repeatedly lied to authorities about the 2011 incident.

“You were asked if you saw the car that shot you and you lied,” in 2011, said defense attorney Jesse Ortiz, linking that shooting to the Loucreta Drive shooting. “As you were lying in that hospital bed, blood in your face and blood on your hands, you knew who was responsible for that because you saw him. He just happened to be the uncle of the victim who was killed.

“Every time you went out, you were on the lookout. You were strapped. You were armed. Because, you were ready.”

Darrell Smith: 916-321-1040, @dvaughnsmith