MOUNT VERNON — Testimony continued Wednesday in the trial of Ernesto Rivas, the man accused of shooting Mount Vernon police officer Michael “Mick” McClaughry in the head.
Rivas, 47, is facing six charges, including two for first-degree attempted murder.
As with Tuesday, much of Wednesday’s testimony revolved around the shooting that brought McClaughry to the Rivas house to investigate.
In that incident, a man who was reportedly a member of a rival gang to the one in which Rivas was a member, was waiting by his vehicle, which had a flat tire, when he was approached by two boys and shot in the neck.
A relative of the victim testified that the victim and two friends who had gone to help him were worried they were so close to Rivas’ home.
“They were worried because they were in a bad spot,” she said.
She testified that she saw Rivas and two teens — later identified as 15-year-old Roberto Lopez Jr. and 16-year-old Austin Isaias Gonzales — standing in Rivas’ yard watching them.
Another witness, Trevor Simpson, testified to hearing gunshots. He said he watched two teen boys flee the scene. He began to give chase, he said, but stopped when he saw one of the boys was armed with a handgun.
He later had to jump over fences and dash through yards to get past the police barricade that was outside his home, he said. Once he got there, bullets began to fly and he and his children took cover in the hallway of their home. They were later evacuated from the area by police.
On Wednesday afternoon, Lopez, now 17, testified that when he met up with Gonzales that December day he knew Gonzales wanted to fight.
Gonzales knew the victim was broken down just north of his home, Lopez said. The fact that he was in a different gang from Gonzales, Lopez and Rivas was enough of a reason to start a fight, Lopez testified.
He testified that Gonzales then approached Rivas’ door. At the time, he said, he thought it was for backup — without Rivas the two boys would be outnumbered.
That, he said, is when Rivas gave Gonzales a revolver that Gonzales later used to shoot the victim.
Lopez went along with it, he said, because of his friendship with Gonzales.
“I didn’t want him to think I was scared,” the teen testified.
After the initial shooting, Lopez testified that he and Gonzales ran to Rivas’ home, where they began listening to the police scanner. Once they knew a K9 unit had been called to the scene to track their locations, Rivas went to his bedroom to retrieve guns, ammunition and bullet proof vests, Lopez said.
“I don’t want to go back,” he recalled Rivas saying about a possible prison term.
From inside the darkened home, Lopez said, Rivas waited until he heard a knock at the door — a police officer who said he wanted to speak with him.
That, Lopez said, is when Rivas, using a laser-sight, shot through a window pane on the door, striking McClaughry in the head.
Sporadically, he said, Rivas continued to shoot, although at one point he crawled to the kitchen to retrieve marijuana for the boy.
Lopez said he smoked the marijuana, fell asleep, and woke up to continued shooting between Rivas and the numerous law enforcement officers that had descended on the home.
With the pistol Gonzales had used earlier, Lopez said he then went into the bathroom and live-streamed a video of himself with it.
“I felt like it was going to be my last day alive,” he said. “So why not?”
Lopez admitted he had lied during his initial interviews with law enforcement. In part, he said, he’d lied because he was afraid of being considered a “snitch.”
But fearful of receiving a “juvenile life” sentence — being in a juvenile detention center until his 21st birthday — Lopez said he decided to cooperate with prosecutors.
In January 2017, Lopez was sentenced to six months in a juvenile detention facility after pleading guilty as an adult to second-degree assault with a deadly weapon.
Part of that plea deal was to tell the truth about the evening’s events, he said. Not doing so could result in more serious charges being brought against him.
Rivas, the defense contends, did not give either boy the gun used to shoot the first victim.
The trial is expected to continue for about six weeks. McClaughry, Mount Vernon Mayor Jill Boudreau and several law enforcement officers are expected to testify.