SALT LAKE CITY — A gunman who believed he was acting in self-defense when he shot and killed three young men during a botched drug deal has pleaded guilty to reduced charges of manslaughter.
Gerald Radckiff Grant, 21, pleaded guilty to three counts of manslaughter, a second-degree felony.
He had originally faced three counts of aggravated murder, a first-degree felony and possible capital offense, in the shooting deaths of brothers Angel Lopez-Salinas, 20, and Lauro "Raul" Lopez-Salinas, 19, as well as their friend, Armando Cuenca-Curiel, 17.
When Grant shot the three, he "reasonably but incorrectly believed his conduct was legally justified or excused by self-defense," according to plea documents.
As part of the deal with prosecutors, when Grant is sentenced March 8, he has agreed to a recommendation that he serve at least six and up to 30 years in prison. Prosecutors will ask that prison terms for each of the three manslaughter convictions run consecutively to one another but concurrently with a third-degree felony conviction in an unrelated case for possession with intent to distribute, according to the deal.
According to a search warrant affidavit, Grant claimed he fired in self-defense after the three young men tried to rob him, shooting him in the leg. But charging documents allege Grant and another man, Mahad Omar, 23, had plotted to buy marijuana from the three victims, then rob them.
Omar is charged with three counts of murder and one count of aggravated robbery, all first-degree felonies, plus obstructing justice, a second-degree felony. He is due in court Feb. 12 to either resolve his case or schedule a jury trial.
Omar told police that Grant got into a Ford Explorer with the three men at 283 E. 3300 South, and that he and another man intended to follow the SUV, charges state. They lost sight of the vehicle, however, and Grant called a few minutes later saying he had been shot and needed to be picked up.Comment on this story
When they located Grant near 325 E. Park Creek Lane (3060 South), Grant said he had pulled out his gun and one of the men in the SUV had shot him in the leg, charges state. Grant then shot all three of the men, Omar told police.
The Lopez-Salinas brothers and Cuenca-Curiel were shot in the Explorer, which was found with the engine revving and smoking in the middle of the road. Charging documents say the driver, Angel Lopez-Salinas, suffered gunshot wounds to the head and right bicep. His younger brother, Raul, was shot in the head in the back seat.
Cuenca-Curiel, found in the cargo area, was shot in the chest. He died at the scene, while the brothers died in the following days.