Testimony continues in trial of Victoria man accused of shooting

Jessica Priest By Jessica Priest

Nov. 14, 2012 at 5:14 a.m.

Justin Vest jolted awake during the early morning hours of Dec. 4, as the gray Toyota Tacoma he was riding in barreled down Navarro Street.

"He (the driver Jeremy Altis) was screaming, 'You stupid mother-effer. I can't believe you just shot a gun out of the window of my pickup," Vest said.

Vest testified Wednesday in the trial of Antonio DeLeon, a 37-year-old Victoria man he saw riding in Altis' passenger seat.

DeLeon is indicted on five counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

He was arrested alongside Altis, 33, of Sedalia, Miss., after witnesses said he fired at five people in the parking lot of the Cactus Canyon night club, 3613 N. Navarro St.

No one was injured, but a stray bullet struck a car, according police reports.

Vest and Altis were co-workers, in town working on a project for Pro Energy Services, a company that repairs power plants.

The two partied with a group of Pro Energy Services' employees the night of Dec. 3. And, after Vest consumed about 13 beers and 20 Vodka Redbull shots, he climbed inside Altis' truck to sleep it off.

Vest said he didn't hear the gunfire nor did he see the gun - a black Hi Point model C9 9mm Luger - which police later found in the truck's center console.

But that knowledge didn't stop him from jumping out of the truck as it came to a stop at the intersection of Navarro and Red River streets, where he then punched DeLeon twice in the face.

"I wanted no part of it," Vest told jurors. "That's something people don't involve me in."

Defense attorney Bill White throughout the morning questioned why Vest had remained silent about the incident - even to his family, who works in Missouri law enforcement - until about nine months later.

Vest said he was afraid he might lose his job, but White suggested a logical person might be worried about something else.

"You had no concerns whatsoever this could land you in some sort of legal trouble with police?" White asked. "Did it occur to you later that you possibly committed an assault on Mr. DeLeon?"

White declined to talk about the case.

Prosecutor Edward Wilkinson also called Hallettsville Police Sgt. Mitchell Bennett, who was working as an off-duty security guard for Cactus Canyon that night.

Bennett said he rushed over to a group congregating on the east side of the parking lot after the shots were fired and saw the Tacoma speed away.

He also saw a car window shot out, but a person claiming to be the owner said it was damaged before that night.

Wilkinson declined to comment until after the trial ended.

The trial will resume at 9 a.m. Thursday before Judge Robert C. Cheshire. The state is expected to call a Department of Public Safety forensic scientist then.

Altis, who now faces similar charges, goes to court in January.

Aggravated assault with a deadly weapon is a second-degree felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.



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