They were best friends since childhood. They did what best friends do: had sleepovers, played ball, stuck up for one another, celebrated birthdays, cared for each other’s families.
Then last year, one friend put a bullet in the other.
Michael Eugene Vigil was high on methamphetamine and a synthetic drug known as spice when, authorities said, he drew a gun in his old neighborhood and ran down the block, firing at least 10 shots.
Antonio David Vasquez, his long-time best friend, was killed by a bullet to his head. A man and a young boy were also wounded in the mayhem.
Vigil, 37, was sentenced Monday to a prison term of 25 years to life in the aggravated murder of 33-year-old Vasquez.
Court-appointed psychiatrists have determined Vigil suffers from psychotic episodes that, when left untreated, can cause sudden and lethal shifts in behavior.
On Monday, Vigil blamed one of these “episodes” for his actions on that July day nearly one year ago.
“There’s nothing I can say or do that will change anything,” Vigil said. “In my mind, it was something that really wasn’t. I’m sorry, so sorry to the family. He was a good friend.”
Vigil pleaded guilty in February to aggravated murder and attempted aggravated murder, both first-degree felonies.
Judge Denise Lindberg said she believed the defendant’s actions were a result of his psychosis, but said he made matters worse by turning to illegal drugs rather than a doctor-prescribed treatment.
“Your conduct on that day could not be described as anything other than literally crazy,” she said. “But had you involved yourself in treatment when you had the opportunity, then perhaps, this tragic day could have been avoided.”
Three members of Vasquez’s family spoke in court before Vigil’s sentence was handed down. Youngest of them all was Maribel Chavez, the victim’s 11-year-old stepdaughter.
The small, brown-eyed girl began by reading a letter she had written to her stepdad. She shuffled her Converse-clad feet as she addressed the court.
“I miss you so much,” she said. “It’s been so hard without you, without your laughter. Everybody misses you ... we wish you could come home.”
When she finished, she ran to the open arms of her mother Carol Chavez, buried her head in the red memorial shirt that bore Vasquez’s name and picture, and began to sob.
Later, the little girl recounted tales of her stepfather: how he would take her to play in Liberty Park, where he worked, and sneak up on her when she was coloring. She still lives in the home her mother and her siblings had meant to share with Vasquez.
It’s not easy.
“We just moved into the new house together that day,” Carol Chavez said. “It was a starter house, but we never got to start our life together.”
Those who attended Monday’s sentencing said that with one bullet, they lost what felt like two family members.
“We all lost somebody,” said Vasquez’s grandmother Adrienne Atwood.
In addition to his prison term, Vigil was ordered to continue to undergo medical treatment for psychosis. A restitution amount will be determined at a later date.