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Boy Accused Of Shooting At Truck To Spill Toys; Man Wounded

December 27, 1995

FORT HANCOCK, Texas (AP) _ A 13-year-old boy wanted a computer game. So on Christmas Day, his brother said, he grabbed a .22-caliber rifle, aimed at a passing truck he believed to be loaded with games, and pulled the trigger.

Instead of blowing out the truck’s tires and causing it to spill its cargo, the bullet hit and critically wounded a man driving a pickup.

Ricardo Soto was charged with deadly conduct in juvenile court, punishable by up to 10 years in custody, the county attorney’s office said.

The boy fired three shots at a tractor-trailer rig eastbound on Interstate 10, about 60 miles southeast of El Paso near the U.S.-Mexico border, police said.

His 9-year-old brother, David Soto, told The Associated Press that Ricardo told him he wanted to ``shoot a trailer and get Nintendos out of it.″

But Ricardo’s sister, 15-year-old Erika, said she believes the shooting was accidental. ``I don’t think he really meant to. He likes to shoot stuff, like practice,″ she said.

Authorities say they aren’t certain what motivated Ricardo. The boy himself hasn’t explained to them what happened.

``They’re a real poor family and maybe he thought about Christmas″ presents, said Hudspeth County Sheriff Arcadio Ramirez. ``I guess he thinks every truck had toys.″

Ramirez said the boy’s seriously ill father is in a special care home in El Paso, and his mother, Maria Soto, cares for the family by herself. He didn’t know what was wrong with the father; Mrs. Soto was not at home Tuesday and could not be located for comment.

Ramirez said the boy had hidden in the brush by the side of the road about a mile outside of Fort Hancock and opened fire late Monday afternoon.

Alberto Tarango of Van Horn, who was driving in a pickup truck with his wife, was hit once in the back of the head. His condition was upgraded from critical to guarded late Tuesday at Thomason General Hospital in El Paso. His wife was unhurt.

The rig driving in front of Tarango was struck twice, but no one was injured.

Ramirez said he didn’t know what the truck was hauling. The driver apparently was unaware of the shots and kept going, investigators said.

Border Patrol agents following Ricardo’s footsteps found the boy more than two hours later hiding in a station wagon outside his home. Ramirez said the boy surrendered without any trouble.

The sheriff said Ricardo was carrying a .22-caliber bullet, but authorities had been unable to find the rifle as of Tuesday afternoon.

He said the boy hadn’t had problems with the law before.

``He’s a pretty good kid,″ said Julia Sanchez, who lives next door to the Sotos in this dusty town of 500 people. She said Ricardo often came over to play and was always respectful.

Ricardo got in trouble in the third grade for taking a BB gun to school, but Erika Soto said their father smoothed the matter over with authorities.

Arturo Hernandez, who works in a nearby grocery story, called Ricardo ``quiet and reserved.″

``It’s a shame that things like that happen,″ added Hernandez, ``but right now the world is turning pretty crooked.″

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