A Clark County jury Monday convicted three men of second-degree murder and other felonies related to a shooting and attempted robbery at an illegal street race in 2007.
Authorities alleged that Omar Ayala, 20, Angel Perez, 19, and Francisco Cruz, 20, attempted to carjack Michael Pira at an illegal street race at Sunset Road and Valley View Boulevard in the early hours of Feb. 2, 2007. Pira escaped in his car to a group of nearby friends. The three defendants opened fire with handguns in that direction, mortally wounding Nick Gazzano.
Ayala fired the fatal shot, according to testimony.
The three defendants also were found guilty of attempted murder, attempted robbery, conspiracy to commit robbery, assault with a deadly weapon and discharging a firearm from a motor vehicle.
The jury acquitted a fourth co-defendant Jose Covarrubias, 23, of the same charges. The three defendants got into a sport utility vehicle driven by Covarrubias during the shooting.
During the closing arguments of the two-week-long trial, Covarrubias’ defense attorney, Michael Sanft, argued his client arrived after the gunfire erupted and didn’t know about the attempted robbery. “He just wanted his friends to get out of there,” Sanft said.
After the verdict, Sanft said, “It takes a lot of courage for a jury to come back and admit there is a crime, but also admit the state did not show enough evidence to sustain a charge against my client for murder.”
Prosecutor Mark DiGiacomo said he understood the jury’s acquittal of Covarrubias because some evidence implicating him could not be presented at trial. DiGiacomo was referring to a statement made by Cruz to police, indicating Covarrubias knew about the plan to rob someone at the street race. But the statement could not be used against Covarrubias unless Cruz testified, which he didn’t.
DiGiacomo said he was satisfied with the three convictions. “These defendants are not going to see the light of day for a very long time,” he said.
Cruz, Perez, and Ayala are scheduled to be sentenced April 6.
Covarrubias and Cruz also face separate battery charges in connection to a jail brawl, according to court records.
Contact reporter Francis McCabe at email@example.com or 702-380-1039.