Courier staff writer
CONEJOS — Wayne Quintana was only kidding when he gave his younger brother Francisco a few words of advice, as he handed him a .22-caliber rifle.
“I told him kind of like in a joke: ‘don’t shoot anyone,’” the older Quintana said Wednesday.
But shoot someone he did, whether he was acting to protect himself, or for some other reason.
As a result, Francisco Quintana now finds himself on trial in Conejos County, where he stands accused of second-degree attempted murder and other offenses related to the Aug. 7, 2011 incident. His brother, meanwhile, is serving as a witness for the prosecution.
At first, Wayne Quintana said he didn’t think too much about it when he saw his then-17-year-old brother place the rifle inside another sibling’s room at the family’s Capulin home.
“I asked him why he needed it and I believe he said: ‘there are some people in the house that I just don’t trust,’” the older brother testified.
“I thought he was just being over-cautious.”
Before long, Wayne Quintana went back to what he was doing on the family computer, and he quickly lost track of the time.
While he was in the upstairs room, he could overhear his brother arguing with someone, but he said he didn’t pay too much attention to anything they were saying.
At some point, though, he heard the unmistakable sound of a gun firing.
He immediately stopped what he was doing and shifted his focus toward Francisco.
As his brother stood at the top of an adjacent staircase with the rifle in his hands, someone at the foot of the stairs was taunting and threatening the younger Quintana, he said. His brother, meanwhile, kept telling the man to get out of the house.
Wayne Quintana said he’s not sure how much time passed between the moment he heard the first shot and the events that followed. But he testified that he saw his brother point the rifle at the man, and then fire it as the man lunged toward the weapon.
The bullet struck that man, Zachary Rodriguez, squarely in the chest.
An emergency room physician later determined that Rodriguez was suffering from a partially collapsed lung and severe internal bleeding. An x-ray exam also confirmed that the .22-caliber bullet traveled down to Rodriguez’s kidney, causing further damage; to this day, it remains lodged near his spine.
The two brothers didn’t need a doctor to tell them that Rodriguez was in bad shape. When the bullet struck his sternum, Rodriguez collapsed on the staircase, and the color began to drain from his face.
He later got up from the foot of the stairs and made his way to a bathroom in the house. Yet even though he remained conscious, he complained that he was short of breath.
In the moments after the second shot hit Rodriguez, Wayne Quintana said he and his brother searched frantically around the house for a functioning telephone to call for help.
A male who identified himself as Francisco Quintana was the first to get through to an emergency dispatcher. As she asked him to tell her what happened, the voice on the other end repeatedly asked her to send an ambulance to his family’s house at once.
The dispatcher asked the male how many times he shot the man.
“Once, just to stop him,” said the voice on the other end of the phone.
Rodriguez previously testified that the incident was the result of a drug deal gone awry.
He told the court on Tuesday that he accompanied a woman to Quintana’s house, where she planned to buy cocaine from the defendant. But Rodriguez said he aggressively challenged Francisco Quintana to a fight when he reached the conclusion that the defendant was trying to “burn” the woman, or rip her off.
In contrast, the individual who identified himself as Francisco Quintana told the dispatcher that he acted in self-defense.
“They attacked me. I had no choice,” he said. “He almost killed me.”
According to an audio recording of the 911 call, the male alleged that an unknown person broke in to the family’s home off Highway 15.
“I heard something outside my door and then, all of a sudden, I heard a window breaking,” he said.
Wayne Quintana initially told authorities a similar story. But he testified on Wednesday that he just assumed someone broke in to the family’s house, based on his firsthand observations, as well as the things his brother told him.
“There was a guy in the house I’d never seen before and my brother had shot him,” he said.
The trial is scheduled to continue at the Conejos County Courthouse through the rest of this week. In addition to one count of second-degree attempted murder, Francisco Quintana stands accused of first-degree assault, felony menacing with a deadly weapon and unlawful possession of a Schedule II controlled substance (cocaine).