Brandt trial concludes with guilty verdicts- UPDATE

The scene of the shooting on Denver Avenue in South Alamosa on Oct. 27, 2022. Courier file photo by Keith R. Cerny

ALAMOSA — A jury was unanimous in reaching a guilty verdict in the case of Daniel Brandt on Wednesday. Brandt was being tried in connection with shooting two people on Oct. 27, 2022.

After deliberating for three hours, jurors found Brandt, 17, guilty on two counts of criminal attempt to commit murder in the first degree (second degree felony) for the shooting of Ricardo Rangel and Alamosa Police Department Officer Mollee Heeney plus three counts of first degree assault (third degree felony), including one count for assault on a peace officer, one count for assault of Heeney and one count for assault of Rangel. Jurors also found Brandt guilty on one count of criminal mischief (second degree misdemeanor) for breaking the window of a relative’s residence.

Brandt was just 15 years old at the time of the shooting in 2022 but was tried as an adult, following a transfer hearing where defense counsel argued that Brandt had experienced significant trauma in his life and was making gains at the youth detention center where he was being held. Trying and possibly convicting him as an adult would likely sentence him to serving time in the Department of Corrections.

District Attorney Anne Kelly, advocating for the transfer, argued that the teenager had been given ample opportunity to take advantage of both treatment and education but to no avail, and the nature of the offense warranted being tried as an adult.

At the end of the transfer hearing marked by frequent objections, District Judge Crista Newmyer-Olsen ruled in the prosecution’s favor. The last time a juvenile was tried as an adult in the San Luis Valley was in 2009.

During closing arguments, the core difference between the prosecution’s case and that of the defense related to Brandt’s state of mind on the day of the shooting.

DA Kelly, who prosecuted with co-counsel Deputy DA Carle Tarnutzer-Decker, argued that Brandt was “a very angry young man”. After quoting things Brandt said that were captured on bodycam, she told the jury, “He told you what he thought of APD officers. He told you he knew exactly what was going on when he pulled the trigger. He knew his rights, knew the legal system and that he thought he was going to get away with it.”

Attorney for the defense, Cobea Becker, argued that this was a case of “perception, perception, perception.” Brandt had spent all day drinking with his friends in the park and was drunk during the incident, which impacted his perception of what was happening around him, including recognizing APD Officer Heeney as a police officer. She also described Officer Heeney as “in shock” upon arriving on the scene and suggested that Heeney’s injury to her leg (a fractured femur) was possibly the result of bullet fragments instead of the direct hit from the bullet fired by Brandt.

That argument was addressed by DA Kelly who summarized the three points of her case. Brandt knew what he was doing at the time and intended to shoot both Rangel and Heeney.

After reading the verdict, each of the 12 jurors were polled and each had voted guilty on all six charges. Sentencing is set for 9 a.m. on July 26, when people will be allowed to speak on behalf of the victims and Brandt.

Defense counsel said they would likely be bringing four individuals from Youth Offender Services, presumably to speak on Brandt’s behalf. Brandt, himself, has yet to speak. It’s not known if he will choose otherwise at sentencing.

What sentence Brandt receives will rest entirely in the hands of District Judge Newmyer-Olsen.

“This was an incredibly challenging case,” DA Kelly told the Valley Courier the night after a verdict had been reached. “It’s unimaginable that someone as young as he was could do what he did. My co-counsel, Carle Tarnutzer-Decker, did a phenomenal job.  I’m very appreciative of the jury for their energy and attention in what was a very complicated case. I’m so honored to get justice for Mollee and Ricardo, and I’m so appreciative of law enforcement and their work in this community.”