Clerk sent to prison for shooting would-be beer thief

A former 7-Eleven clerk was sentenced to four to 12 years in prison Thursday for shooting a would-be beer thief as he ran from the store.

The 56-year-old Mariano Tejeda-Zuniga, who has been in custody since his arrest in August 2014, could be eligible for parole in less than three years.

A Clark County jury convicted Tejeda-Zuniga in October of battery with use of a deadly weapon and possession of stolen property and acquitted him of one count of attempted murder with use of a deadly weapon. Kallum Smith suffered a single gunshot wound to the back of the head from a stolen .45-caliber pistol, and the bullet flew out of his mouth, prosecutors said.

“At the end of the day, the most compelling testimony was how (the victim’s) teeth were on the ground,” District Judge Jennifer Togliatti said. “As he’s running away, his bone and teeth are there, as he’s trying to get out of the Old West, where we shoot at people for a beer grab.”

Police were originally called after Smith showed up at Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center with a gunshot wound to the face, according to an arrest report.

After speaking with a man who drove Smith to the hospital, police went to a 7-Eleven convenience store at 2910 Maryland Parkway, near Bonanza Road.

At the store, officers found a case of Modelo in the store sink stained with what looked like blood, an arrest report said. They also found pieces of what looked like human skin and bone on the ground.

Mariano Tejeda-Zuniga, the store clerk, walked officers through the scene and told them that he had a semi-automatic pistol tucked into his pants and that the store had dealt with large amounts of beer theft. He said a man entered the store and took the case of beer, laughing as he hurried out of the store without paying.

At the time, Tejeda-Zuniga told police that he didn’t think he hit Smith because he climbed into a car and left.

“What I find most telling when it comes to sentencing is the defendant’s complete lack of accountability as to what happened,” prosecutor Binu Palal said, calling the crime “egregious.”

Defense lawyer Michael Pandullo said Tejeda-Zuniga had no criminal history and called the shooting an “accident.”

Speaking through an interpreter in court Thursday, Tejeda-Zuniga told the judge he did not believe his finger was on the trigger when the gun fired. He said he spoke with fellow inmates at the Clark County Detention Center who told him that a gun could fire without him pulling the trigger.

“I never intended to shoot this person and injure this person,” he said. “It’s just that when I put the bullet in the chamber, the shot got out.”

Two months before Tejeda-Zuniga’s conviction, Smith filed a civil lawsuit against the clerk, 7-Eleven and its franchisee KS Singh Inc., calling the shooting “outrageous, intentional, despicable and malicious.”

Contact reporter David Ferrara at dferrara@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-1039. Find him on Twitter: @randompoker

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