Classmate Sent to Prison for Shooting and Killing Former San Angelo Central Football Player
SAN ANGELO, TX -- A former San Angelo Central High School football player was shot in the head at a residence on Edmund Blvd. in July 2017 and Wednesday in a Tom Green County courtroom another Central High football player was sent to prison for the killing.
Xavior Arzola, 21, pleaded guilty to second degree felony manslaughter in District Judge Ben Woodward's court. The second degree felony is punishable by two to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. Arzola could've been placed on deferred adjudication. He was also charged with tampering with physical evidence but that charge was abandoned by the prosecution in exchange for his guilty plea.
As we reported earlier, Arzola was at a party in a residence in the 1800 block of Edmund Blvd. in west San Angelo on July 19, 2017 with Victor Omar Duarte and several others. According to court documents and testimony, the party began earlier in the day at the Angelo Place Apartments. Arzola was drinking alcohol and using cocaine, xanax, and marijuana. At some point early in the morning, Arzola pulled out a Glock .40 caliber handgun and was showing it to the partiers. Testimony showed he placed the handgun on the bar. He later picked up the handgun, racked the slide putting a bullet in the chamber, and pointed it at Duarte and the gun went off killing Duarte.
In court testimony today, the impression was that Arzola was a veteran member of the San Angelo Central Bobcats football team. Coach Brent Davis clarified that Arzola worked out with the team for maybe a week but was never considered a member of the team. Duarte, however, did suit up and play for the Bobcats.
Testimony showed Arzola then left the scene and disposed of the handgun which is why he was charged with tampering with physical evidence.
Assistant District Attorney Brent Ratekin had no recommended sentence so the prosecution and defense presented witnesses and evidence to Judge Woodward who would assess punishment in a unified trial.
Here's how the trial unfolded Wednesday:
Ratekin called San Angelo Police officer Thomas Gibson to the witness stand. Gibson testified that a female who was at the house called 9-1-1 and he was dispatched for a possible shooting.
Police forced their way into the house and found Duarte lying in a pool of blood on the floor in the kitchen. Gibson testified that he saw the gunshot wound to the head and the blood on the floor. Apparently he had been deceased for some time. As he described the scene, several members of Duarte's family cried and moaned in the courtroom.
Ratekin then presented photos of the scene into evidence. He handed the photos to the judge so the victim's family didn't have to see them.
Next on the witness stand was Trinidad Dehoyos who went to school with Arzola and Duarte. All three were friends at Central High School. Dehoyos testified that the party started at Angelo Place Apartments by the swimming pool. He said they were drinking beer and doing drugs, "with us it was coke (cocaine)" for two to three hours. Dehoyos testified he saw Arzola with the handgun and it just went off.
Dehoyos told the court Arzola panicked and they all left. He said Christian Castro drove them to an apartment complex where Arzola got rid of the gun.
Then Ratekin called SAPD Criminial Investigation Division investigator Adrian Castro to the stand. Detective Castro, who is not related to Christian Castro, interviewed Christian who was arrested for transporting Arzola from the crime scene. Castro testified that they went to the location where the handgun had been disposed of but couldn't find the gun. Castro says investigators found two magazines and some ammunition, but not the guns. In fact, the handgun used in the killing was never found.
Detective Castro testified he attended Duarte's autopsy and the medical examiner found the bullet entered the victim's head through his left ear and exited through the right rear of his head. Castro said Arzola is shorter than Duarte, so he would've had to be holding the handgun above his head and pointing in down toward Duarte's head for the bullet to have traveled the path it did.
Castro testified that Arzola had an extensive criminal history. Arzola pleaded guilty to possession of marijuana in 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri where his parents live.
After he killed Duarte, he was arrested in San Angelo for illegal possession of a firearm and possession of cocaine.
Detective Castro testified that when officers went to arrest Arzola, he was at a residence on Rainey street in west San Angelo. When police arrived, Arzola went into a shed on the property to "smoke a blunt," to calm down. Police eventually had to go into the shed to arrest Arzola.
Assistant DA Ratekin then called Texas Department of Public Safety Criminal Investigation Division Trooper Michael Sams. Sams testified he was working undercover observing an apartment where a known drug dealer was selling drugs in San Angelo. He testified he watched a vehicle drive up to the apartment and Arzola got out of the car, went inside, and left within a few minutes. He followed the vehicle that was eventually stopped by law enforcement. Arzola was in the back seat where officers found a baggie of cocaine. Arzola was out on bond at the time for the shooting and was arrested for possession of a controlled substance.
Then Ratekin called Duarte's mother to the stand. Debra Dehoyos described her son as full of life and an athlete who loved playing football at Central High School. She testified that her son played defensive back and on special teams. He graduated and was about to attend Angelo State University. She trembled and cried on the witness stand and that triggered several other family members in the courtroom to cry as well.
Ratekin then rested his case. Judge Woodward ordered a break in the trial for lunch and the proceeding began again shortly after 1 p.m.
Defense attorney Nathan Butler then called his first witness; Arzola's mother Melinda Taylor. She testified that Arzola didn't grow up around guns and had no experience with them. Taylor said her son was a good kid and a good student. "It was an accident. He's not a bad kid; he's not a criminal. He doesn't deserve prison." She said.
Under cross examination, Taylor said Arzola just wanted an opportunity to right his wrongs. Assistant DA Ratekin said Arzola violated his bond by getting arrested for illegally possessing a firearm and drug possession and was sent back to jail.
Defense attorney Butler then called Arzola's stepfather to the witness stand. Terrance Taylor told the judge he was sentenced to seven years in prison for manslaughter because he drove drunk, got into a crash and his female passenger was killed. Taylor told the judge Arzola has a strong support group in his family and they will take care of him back home in Kansas City if he is put on probation.
Butler then put Arzola's younger brother Elijah Arzola on the stand. The 20-year-old said his big brother was a good person and a good football player. Elijah said his brother would be good on probation. "It was just a mistake, it was accidental." Elijah told the judge. "He needs another chance!" an excited Taylor said.
Both sides rested and the trial moved into closing arguments. Ratekin went first. He told the judge, "I don't envy the court's position. How do you compensate for the death of a child?" he asked rhetorically. Ratekin said probation is not appropriate for a death involving drugs, alcohol and a firearm. "We still don't know where the gun is and he still lies about it."
Ratekin told the judge that Arzola's actions show he was worried about himself and not the victim. "The defendant is eligible for probation, but is he worthy of probation?" Ratekin said Arzola continued to offend while he was out on bond and wouldn't be able to complete the terms of deferred adjudication probation.
In his closing remarks, defense attorney Butler said, "We've already had one tragedy in the death of (Duarte). Sending Arzola to prison would be another tragedy." Butler described the killing as an accident, a tragic accident. "He was a 19-year-old kid. He's terrified; he's freaked out and he just panicked." Butler asked Judge Woodward to place Arzola on deferred adjudication probation.
Assistant DA Ratekin then closed by telling the judge that Duarte was the victim, not Arzola and that justice required Arzola be sent to prison so the Duarte family could have some closure.
Judge Woodward recessed for about 45 minutes to consider the evidence in the case before passing sentence.
When he reconvened the trial, the judge said these are not easy cases and that it was a tragedy but an accident only in the broadest sense of the word.
Judge Woodward said Arzola's actions since the killing were not remorseful.
Woodward then sentenced Xavior Arzola to 11 years in prison and ordered him to pay court costs and restitution in the amount of $5,993.68. Woodward also determined there was a finding of the use of a deadly weapon which means Arzola must spend at least half his sentence in prison before he would be eligible for parole.
Duarte's oldest sister then read an emotionally charged victim impact statement to the court. Arzola looked back over his left shoulder at her as she tearfully read the statement. "You are a coward." She read.
Xavior Arzola was then taken into custody by bailiffs and taken to the Tom Green County jail to begin his sentence. He was credited for time served.
July 17, 2019 10:41 p.m. — Clarification was added about Arzola's membership on the San Angelo Central Football Team. In court testimony today, the impression was that Arzola was a veteran member of the San Angelo Central Bobcats football team. Coach Brent Davis clarified that Arzola worked out with the team for maybe a week but was never considered a member of the team. Duarte, however, did suit up and play for the Bobcats.
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