Suspect claims shooting of bystanders in Utah was accidental
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A man who shot and injured three people at a suburban Salt Lake City grocery store, including a young Nevada girl who came to Utah for cancer treatment, says it was an accident, authorities said Thursday.
Rufino Joseph Cervantez, 36, said he didn’t mean to fire his weapon on Wednesday at the West Valley City grocery store, West Valley police spokeswoman Roxeanne Vainuku told the Deseret News.
Cervantez was being held in the Salt Lake County jail on suspicion of aggravated assault and gun violations. It was not clear if he has an attorney.
He was arrested on Wednesday, hours after the shooting where he and three bystanders were injured.
Among those injured was Esmeralda Padilla, 3, who lives in Las Vegas and has been in Utah with her family since November to receive treatment for kidney cancer, her father Hugo Padilla told reporters.
The girl, her mother Erika Ortega and an unidentified third woman were all struck in the legs during the incident.
According to court documents, Cervantez told police that he nearly dropped the firearm when it went off. Police believe a single shot to Cervantez’s leg created fragments that went through the three bystanders, the Deseret News reported.
However, witnesses told police that Cervantez stood at the store’s entrance, pointed a weapon inside and began firing.
After the shooting, the gunman fled the scene on foot, prompting a brief manhunt through the neighborhood. Four schools were placed on lockdown for precautionary reasons.
Cervantez was located in a nearby apartment complex several hours later and taken away on a stretcher for his wounds to be treated.
He has previously been convicted on multiple felony charges and has limited ability to legally own firearms, according to the court documents.