Shootout in Winnemucca: Three dead, two injured in early-morning gunfight
By DEE HOLZEL - Correspondent
Sunday, May 25, 2008 7:34 PM PDT
A member of the Washoe County Crime Lab enters Players Bar and Grill in Winnemucca to assist with the investigation of a shooting incident that killed three people Sunday. (Submitted)
WINNEMUCCA - Three people were killed and two were injured after a man with a high-capacity, semi-automatic handgun began shooting inside a bar packed with people.
The battle occurred at Players Bar and Grill shortly before 2:30 a.m. Sunday.
Ernesto Villagomez, 30, allegedly fired multiple shots at Jose Torres, 20, and his brother, Margarito Torres, 19, of Winnemucca, both of whom were pronounced dead at the scene. Villagomez was shot and killed at the scene by a bystander.
Winnemucca Police Chief Bob Davidson confirmed the deceased brothers and the shooter were involved in a family dispute that included numerous violent confrontations going back approximately one year. He confirmed Villagomez appeared to target the Torres brothers.
The bystander was identified only as a 48-year-old Reno man with a valid permit to carry a concealed weapon. Authorities confirmed he was a U.S. Marine, but it was not clear whether he was on active duty or had finished his term of service.
After a conference with Humboldt County District Attorney Russell Smith, the shooting was determined to be justifiable homicide and the man was released without charges.
Edward Zamora, 34, of Winnemucca, and a 22-year-old woman whose identity was not released, were also injured in the shooting. Both were reported to be in stable condition Sunday.
Zamora described the scene inside Players at the time of the shooting.
“I heard a bunch of what I thought was fireworks,” Zamora said. “I turned around and saw this guy shoot this other guy.”
He said he saw the shooter run around the jukebox and shoot a second person. At some point in the melee, Zamora was shot in the forearm.
Zamora said the other patrons in the bar were trying to run away and there was a lot of chaos. He hid in the bathroom where he could hear the sound of more shots being fired.
Davidson said it was not immediately known how many bullets were fired, but witnesses told authorities Villagomez stopped at one point and reloaded the gun.
When asked, Zamora said he felt lucky to be alive.
“He could have been aiming at me,” Zamora said of the shooter.
Zamora said he expected to be released from Humboldt General Hospital Sunday afternoon.
Speaking on the condition he remain anonymous, a member of the band playing that night gave his perspective.
He said initially he heard two or three popping sounds.
“I thought it was the drummer hitting the snare drum,” the man said. “I looked up and saw this guy shooting.”
“I ducked, just like everybody else did,” he added.
From his place on the stage, the man noted, he had nowhere to hide from the shooter.
“I was hoping he'd run out of bullets.”
An area woman who arrived Sunday morning to get her vehicle from the Players parking lot said she left the bar before the shooting started.
“I had a really weird feeling that I had to get out,” she said.
The woman said she had been warned the day before to be careful because there were two rival gangs in town and there was going to be trouble.
Davidson stressed the shooting was not connected to the Run-A-Mucca motorcycle rally held in Winnemucca over the Memorial Day weekend. He added there were no connections between the shooting and motorcycle clubs in town for the event.
The investigation into the incident is ongoing. Local police were assisted at the scene by the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office, Washoe County Crime Lab, the Nevada Division of Investigations and Nevada Highway Patrol.