A Pima County jury rejected a man’s claims Friday morning that he shot a 50-year-old man in self-defense during an August 2011 road-rage incident.
Andres Buelna, 25, is facing between 10 and 22 years in prison after being convicted of second-degree murder in the death of Benny Alvarez Casarez, 50.
Buelna showed no emotion when the verdict was read; Casarez’s family sighed in relief and quietly cried.
Buelna, an unemployed aviation technician, testified Wednesday he shot Casarez because he thought the older man was either going to jerk him out of his pickup truck or grab Buelna’s gun.
Buelna told jurors he was on his way to his girlfriend's house on Aug. 1, 2011, when he decided to stop at the Albertson’s on North Campbell Avenue near East Glenn Street. He went to change lanes but was forced to swerve back when he realized a Ford Mustang was there.
“The next thing I noticed, the Mustang came up really fast behind me and was right up on my behind,” Buelna said. “I tapped my brakes so he would give me some space.”
Almost immediately, Casarez pulled into the center turn lane to pass him, Buelna said. The man made an obscene gesture and mouthed something at him before swerving in front of him, forcing him to make an evasive maneuver.
Between the Albertson’s and the Jack-in-the-Box at Campbell and Fort Lowell Road, Buelna said Casarez slowed down twice right in front of him, tapping his brake lights both times.
As the two vehicles got closer to East Fort Lowell Road, Buelna decided he was going to turn into the Jack-in-the-Box to get away from the situation. However, he testified Casarez beat him into the parking lot.
Since he was already in traffic, Buelna said, he couldn't back up, and there were cars traveling southbound so he had no choice but to finish making his turn.
He couldn’t drive past the Mustang because Casarez was already out of the car and in his path, Buelna said.
“He jumped out of his car, threw his hands in the air and he said he was going to (expletive) me up,” Buelna said.
Buelna testified he displayed his gun and fired a warning shot several feet over the man's head, but he continued to advance.
It was at that point, Buelna said, he closed his eyes and fired the gun.
Before hiding out in the motel room where he was arrested, Buelna testified he washed off the side of his truck, took off the side steps, dismantled and threw away the murder weapon and parked his truck at a friend’s house.
Pima County Superior Court Judge Scott Rash will sentence Buelna Dec. 3.
Contact reporter Kim Smith at 573-4241 or email@example.com
On StarNet: Follow the news and events at Pima County's courthouses in Kim Smith's blog, At the Courthouse, at azstarnet.com/courthouse