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Detective: Many possible motives for parking lot murder

By Daniel Silliman

dsilliman@news-daily.com

Clayton County Police aren't sure of the motive in the Publix Super Market, parking-lot shooting case. But Detective Renan Lopez testified that possible motives include arguments about the following: a flat tire, females, money for drugs, an armed robbery in Texas, friends, and MySpace.com pictures.

It could also have been a gang initiation that led to the Aug. 5 fatal shooting of Indalecio Gallegos at "an unofficial modified racing car event," Lopez said at a probable cause hearing in Clayton County Magistrate Court, Tuesday.

Gallegos, 20, was reportedly sitting in a black, 1998 Ford Crown Victoria in the parking lot at 7535 Ga. Highway 85, that night, when he was shot with a gun witnesses described as steel-or nickel-colored.

There were, reportedly, between 100 and 150 young people in the parking lot, and Lopez said police took statements from four to six of them. Two witnesses, who identified themselves as friends of the dead teen, said they saw the shooter, a teenage male, get into a silver-colored Honda Civic, probably a 2000 or 2001 model. They said the male reclined the seat, so he wouldn't be seen, and drove off.

Lopez said police found a silver-colored Honda Civic in a nearby mobile home park the next morning. Under cross examination by defense attorney, Thomas Robinson, Lopez said he didn't know how many cars were there that night.

"My client may have gotten into a Honda Civic, but that may not have been the Honda Civic that was seen," Robinson said. "Did you investigate the number of cars at the scene?"

"No," Lopez said. "I didn't find that it would be relevant."

The driver of the Honda Civic discovered by the detectives said he had been in the parking lot the night of the shooting, had left when he heard the gunshot, and had given a ride to a teen known as "Carlos."

"Carlos" fit the description of the teen seen with the silver-colored gun, the detective said. The detectives began looking for "Carlos," who reportedly often rode in a red Ford Taurus. They found the Ford, Lopez said, and stopped it.

When the driver saw the police, he "hit reverse at a high rate of speed, and backed up into a tree," Lopez said. The driver ran from the scene, but a teen detectives now say is their murder suspect, was a passenger in the car. He was stopped and questioned.

At the time, he told them he didn't know anyone named "Carlos," and said his name was "Luis Ernesto Mendez," according to documents in Clayton County Magistrate Court. The two witnesses, however, identified the teenager as "Carlos." A computer check turned out the name "Jose Carlos Mendez," with the street name "Lagrimas," which is Spanish for "tears."

A warrant was taken out for the arrest of Mendez, though police later learned that was also an alias, Lopez said Tuesday.

Lopez didn't seem certain about the teenager's true name, Tuesday, but Robinson said he "believed it would turn out to be Carlos Martinez."

Martinez was arrested by Clayton County Sheriff's deputies in late September. When interviewed by police, he said another person, allegedly a gang member, was responsible for the fatal shooting.

Clayton County Magistrate Court Judge Bobby Simmons listened to the detective's testimony, and found there was probable cause to arrest the 17-year-old known as "Carlos." He bound the case over to Superior Court, where a grand jury will consider indicting the teen on charges of murder and aggravated assault.