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Lack of charges in fatal shooting makes grief process harder for family

Updated March 29, 2022 - 6:45 am

Raul Moran’s family described every day of the last three years as a “daily nightmare” after he was fatally shot at a downtown business.

Authorities said the 41-year-old was shot in the head in March 2019 by an employee at Santa Barbara Upholstery Supplies.

For three years, his family has constantly reached out to law enforcement and the district attorney’s office, asking why the case against the shooter was dismissed less than a year after Moran died.

Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson said his office initially charged Victor Cruz, then 25, with battery with a deadly weapon. But after gathering more information, prosecutors came to the conclusion that Cruz acted in self-defense, and that the gunshot that killed Moran was an accidental discharge.

“Everything within our knowledge pointed to no intent to kill, no intent to actually discharge the firearm,” Wolfson said.

He said prosecutors explained to the family why they could not go forward with the case against Cruz when the decision was made.

Moran’s sister Christine Moran-Treto said the altercation between her brother and Cruz should not have escalated to a shooting, and that he was at the business because he knew someone who lived at a home next door.

Video surveillance from the upholstery business showed Moran approach the business and start “hitting the building, acting bewildered, appearing to talk to himself, and causing a disturbance,” according to a Las Vegas police report.

Cruz confronted Moran, who then walked east from the business and through the open gate of a nearby home. Cruz told Moran to leave the gated property.

Someone who lived in the home came out and swung a pressure washer handle at Moran who reached for his pocket. At that point, Cruz hit Moran in the head with the gun. It went off, striking Moran on the side of the head.

“There’s no question that this incident has elements of self-defense that are built into it,” Metropolitan Police Department homicide Lt. Ray Spencer said this month.

Cruz called 911 and was told by dispatchers to apply pressure to Moran’s wound with towels, according to the report.

“Cruz admitted to making a mistake by hitting Moran with the firearm,” a summary of Cruz’s interview with police read. “Cruz stated he did not see Moran holding any weapon and was not attacked by Moran as he had no injuries on his person.”

Wolfson said Cruz had the right to defend himself with reasonable force to “repel the aggressor.”

“Now if he had pointed the gun at the decedent and shot at him intentionally that would be an excessive use of force,” Wolfson said. “That’s not what happened here. Mr. Cruz struck him with the butt of the gun. That was his intention, which would have been a reasonable amount of force, but the gun accidentally discharged.”

He said the fact that Moran had been released from city jail the afternoon of the shooting after being arrested the night before on the battery charge, along with Moran’s mental health, could have been used by defense attorneys in a jury trial.

Moran’s father, Rudy, acknowledged that his son “was no angel” but said he “had a good heart.”

Christine-Moran brought a white urn with Moran’s ashes and placed it on a table in the living room of his mother Maria Moran-Fernandez’s Summerlin home. His dog, Kaya, lives with her now. On the table with his ashes, sat his favorite Kangol cap and a candle with Moran’s picture.

“We are his voice, and we will continue to be his voice,” Moran-Treto said.

Speaking recently with a reporter, Moran’s mother and sister wore shirts emblazoned with his photo and the phrase “Always loved, never forgotten.”

On the day he was shot, Moran’s family was told that his condition was inoperable, and they had to make the difficult decision to let him die.

“Not only did I give him life, but I had to take life away from him,” Moran-Fernandez said. “I wasn’t going to keep him in a bed lying unconscious because that’s what he was.”

Rudy Moran lives in Florida and called Moran-Treto while they sat in the family’s living room.

All three family members described Moran as generous and willing to give “the shirt off his back” if someone needed it.

“He didn’t deserve what they did to him,” Rudy Moran said.

Moran-Treto compared her brother’s personality to actor Jim Carrey’s. She said he was a jokester who would playfully prank family members. Several friends visited Moran when he was hospitalized and posted memories of him on social media, Moran-Treto said.

“I understand they may be unhappy, and I can appreciate that they lost a loved one, but our conclusion is consistent with the law and the facts and our ethical obligation,” Wolfson said.

Spencer said the investigation into Moran’s death was closed because there is no question who fired the shot that killed Moran.

“It’s gut wrenching when you’re facing family members and they’re trying to grieve but you’re not able to give them all the answers that they would like, and it’s just a hard part of this assignment,” Spencer said.

Moran-Fernandez said she cries everyday but tries not to let people see the pain and maintains control in front of others.

“I know that he would want me to be strong and fight for justice because I promised him on his deathbed,” Moran-Fernandez said.

Contact David Wilson at dwilson@reviewjournal.com. Follow @davidwilson_RJ on Twitter.

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