Hard lesson: DeLeon Springs man reflects on shooting friend to death
When the steel cell doors closed behind him at the Volusia County Branch Jail, Eduar Martinez made a personal pilgrimage to St. Peters Catholic Church in DeLand.
“First when I got out, I just first went to a church, gave thanks to God for the blessing that he gave me,” Martinez said. “Then I just went home to see all my family, gave them a hug and a kiss.”
Martinez, who lives in DeLand, had a lot to be thankful for that April 22. He had been in jail for 517 days waiting for his trial on a charge of manslaughter with a firearm. If convicted, he would have faced up to 30 years in prison. Prosecutors had a videotape showing him pulling a gun on Nov. 20, 2014, and pointing it at his friend, Nicholas Alligood, 23, who lived in DeLeon Springs. The gun fires. The friend falls fatally wounded.
Both Martinez and Alligood, before he died, said the shooting had been an accident. Jurors found Martinez guilty of a lesser charge of culpable negligence inflicting injury, a first-degree misdemeanor. Circuit Judge James R. Clayton sentenced Martinez to time-served.
Martinez’s defense attorney, Douglas Williams, put on evidence and testimony from an expert about how the gun, a Lorcin, had a history of defects and danger.
And then there were Alligood’s own words, telling a paramedic that the shooting had been an accident.
“This is this boy’s last words and he uses those last words to vindicate his friend. That was the point I kind of hammered on to the jury. When you have your last words and you’re going to pass on and you use those last words to vindicate your friend, those are extremely powerful words - to say it’s an accident,” Williams said.
Alligood’s mother could not be reached for comment.
Martinez, now 21, worked at the Joy Grocery Store at 5045 U.S. 17 in DeLeon Springs where the owner, Jamal Uddin, kept two guns, a 9-mm Ruger and a Lorcin .380-caliber pistol. Martinez, a 2014 graduate of DeLand High School, worked as a clerk at the store where he met Alligood.
Martinez told an investigator that he and Alligood would play in the store with toy guns that had an “orange thingy” on the tip. Martinez also said he had pointed a real gun at someone at the store before and the store owner had told him not to play with the real guns or ever point one at anyone.
Martinez added that the store owner usually never put bullets in the Lorcin and when he did the store owner would take them back out. He said he had never fired a gun in his life.
But Martinez liked to take pictures of himself holding guns and share them with his friends on social media.
On the day of the shooting, Martinez said he and Alligood were joking, according to his interview with the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office. Martinez was behind the counter. Alligood stood in front. Martinez said he grabbed the gun to scare Alligood.
Martinez said he racked the slide on the gun, because the noise would show it’s a real gun. If it’s loaded, racking a slide on a gun will move a bullet into the chamber.
He said he didn’t know it was loaded.
“I barely touch it and it and it just shot,” Martinez said.
He said Alligood told him he had shot him.
“I asked him if he was Okay and he told me yeah. He was like, ‘I just don’t want to die,’ ” Martinez said.
Alligood was still talking as he was treated by Amanda Miller with Volusia County emergency medical services.
“The friend was showing him the gun and he accidentally shot him in the shoulder, was what he was saying on the scene,” she said.
Martinez’s attorney Douglas Williams called a firearms expert named David Byron from Longwood.
Byron stated in a deposition that the Lorcin gun had a broken safety and that there were many things in that particular model gun that could cause it to fire without the trigger being pulled, including its design and the way it was manufactured.
When the jury convicted Martinez of the misdemeanor rather than the felony which would have sent him to prison for at least 11 years, Williams had to explain what had happened to him. Martinez teared up.
In the interview, Martinez repeated his remorse and hoped that Alligood’s family could forgive him.
“It was an accident. I really didn’t want it to happen. I wish it would never happened. I feel bad for the family and bad for my friend, Nick,” he said.
Martinez, who has a young daughter, said he plans to become an electrician. And he plans to leave Florida but prefers not to say where he is going.
“I want to make a fresh start,” he said.