SALT LAKE CITY — A man accused of shooting and killing another man in a public park last year has been found guilty on all of the charges against him.
Francisco Alverez, 57, was convicted by a jury Thursday of murder, a first-degree felony; possession or use of a firearm by a restricted person, a second-degree felony; and discharge of a firearm, a third-degree felony. Alverez killed Jorge Veracruz, 29, in May 2011.
Prosecutors said Alverez got into an argument with a group of acquaintances and eventually pulled out a gun, shooting Veracruz three times. Witnesses testified that they saw the shooting and stopped Alverez as he tried to ride a bicycle away from the scene and dispose of the gun used.
Defense attorneys argued that Alverez was afraid he would be robbed after the argument broke out and did what he had to do to protect himself.
The case drew attention because it happened at Riverside Park in broad daylight on a day when multiple Little League teams were playing or taking team pictures. Brandon Schroeder, a Little League baseball coach, testified that as many as 500 people were there.
Schroeder said he was practicing with the two teams he coaches when he heard a bullet hit a soccer goal post five feet away from him. He ran toward the shooting to try and stop the shooter, he said, when he saw Veracruz laying on the ground, apparently dead.
Multiple people pointed to a man on a bicycle and said he was the one who shot Veracruz, Schroeder said. The coach ran after the gunman and said he saw him fiddle with his waistband and pull out a weapon, which he then threw toward the Jordan River.
Schroeder said he tackled the bicyclist, whom he identified as Alverez. The jury deliberated for just under three hours.
According to court records, Alverez previously had been convicted of murder for intentionally running over David Alma Brigham on Dec. 2, 1979, in Ogden. Alverez was paroled in 1986 and has been in and out of state prison since, including seven times between 1986 and 2000.
Sentencing in the current case has been set for Feb. 4.