January 9, 2013

Suspects arraigned in deadly Old Sac shooting

A video taken from inside the Sports Corner Cafe captures the entirety of the fatal New Year's Eve shooting in Old Sacramento, in which two people were killed in an assault that investigators say stemmed from a few drops of spilled beer.

A video taken from inside the Sports Corner Cafe captures the entirety of the fatal New Year's Eve shooting in Old Sacramento, in which two people were killed in an assault that investigators say stemmed from a few drops of spilled beer.

According to sources who have seen the video, the images show a gunman whom authorities have identified as Carlito Montoya shooting and killing two people after a friend of his smashes one of the victims across the side of the head with a beer bottle.

In Sacramento Superior Court on Tuesday, prosecutors charged Montoya, 22, with the special-circumstance allegation of multiple murders that could bring him the death penalty if convicted.

Authorities also filed a "three-strikes" complaint against Montoya's friend, 34-year-old Charles Wesley Fowler-Scholz, whose record shows two 1996 robbery convictions in Sacramento County. Faced with the new filing of assault with a deadly weapon, Fowler-Scholz faces a sentence of 25 years to life in prison if found guilty.

His wife, Amber Olivia Scholz, 36, also was charged with assault with a deadly weapon on the grounds she aided and abetted. Authorities contend she was the instigator of the violence that broke out less than an hour after the 9 p.m. fireworks show that drew thousands of people into Old Sacramento for a public New Year's Eve celebration.

The three defendants were arraigned Tuesday in their first court appearance since the shootings that killed Daniel Ferrier, who was 36 and an Iraq war veteran, and Gabriel Cordova, 35 and the father of three children.

They have yet to enter their pleas.

Authorities say Montoya also shot and seriously wounded security guard Stephen Walton, 46, and that Cordova's wife, Christina, was wounded in the foot. Walton shot back – investigators say at least nine bullets were fired in the exchange – injuring Montoya, whose hospitalization delayed the arraignment until Tuesday.

According to sources who saw the video, the episode was launched by a spilled beer: In the video, they said, Amber Scholz can be seen leaving the bar to use the restroom. Upon her return, they said, Gabriel Cordova, standing with his back to her, appears to bump her by accident with an outstretched hand. The sources said Cordova appears to spill a small amount of the beer he was holding onto Scholz's sweat shirt.

Scholz then confronts Cordova, who on the video appears to be trying to explain it was an accident, the sources said. She returns to the bar, where she points out Cordova to her husband and Montoya, and at that point, the sources said, Fowler-Scholz walks over to Cordova and hits him in the head with a beer bottle.

The sources said Ferrier, who worked security at the bar, can be seen attempting to intervene. Montoya walks over and shoots him three times in the face, they said, then turns toward Cordova, who by then was on his back on the barroom floor fighting with Fowler-Scholz. The video shows Montoya reaching around Fowler-Scholz and shooting Cordova once, according to the sources.

At Tuesday's arraignment, Montoya turned away from the news cameras positioned across from him. He meekly answered "no" when Judge Lawrence G. Brown asked if he could afford a lawyer. Brown appointed attorney Karol Martin Repkow to defend Montoya.

In an email to The Bee, Repkow said:

"Mr. Montoya seems neither physically nor mentally well. The prosecutor told me Mr. Montoya wrote a letter expressing remorse for what occurred, but I can't personally verify this because I have so little information at this point. I look forward to representing Mr. Montoya. This is obviously a terrible tragedy for many families."

Fowler-Scholz and his wife retained their own attorneys. He hired Daniel A. Nicholson to represent him. She is represented by Jason Lawley. Lawley left the courthouse without talking to reporters, and Nicholson declined to comment when reached later by phone.

Outside the courtroom, Assistant Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Grippi told reporters that although his office has filed the special-circumstance allegation against Montoya, it has not yet made a decision on whether to seek the death penalty. Grippi said the decision "will be made in the next several weeks or months, when we get all the information we need."

Grippi also declined to discuss details of the shooting with reporters, confirming only that Amber Scholz appeared to have instigated it after Cordova spilled "a very minor, minute amount of beer on her, in the bar." Grippi said he did not know if Scholz knew that Montoya was armed.

Besides the two counts of murder, Montoya is charged with attempted murder in the shooting of Walton and assault with a deadly weapon in the shooting of Christina Cordova. Amber Scholz is charged with aiding and abetting the assault on Gabriel Cordova.

Montoya is being held in the downtown jail without bail.

Bail on the Scholz couple is set at $1 million each. The warrant for their arrest says they are at risk of fleeing to the Bahamas if released. Brown has scheduled their bail review hearing for Thursday.

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