Screams reverberated off courtroom walls Monday as prosecutors played a recording of the 911 call Ana Torres made as her boyfriend lay dying of a gunshot wound to the chest.
"He has a gun, there's a gun, oh, God," Torres shrieked, her words muffled by cries and fragmented by a bad connection. "Please hurry! Please hurry with an ambulance. He isn't OK. He's not OK ..."
As the tape played, several relatives of 25-year-old Amos Pacheco exited the 3rd District courtroom in Salt Lake City. Those who stayed passed around tissues. A young man in the front row pressed the heels of his hands to his eyes as if trying to stop tears from streaming down his face. He rocked back and forth as the scene unfolded:
Joshua James Montoya, 29, allegedly shot Pacheco in broad daylight on a cool spring day in 2010. Torres saw the shooting as she called 911 to break up an escalating argument between the two men.
Defense attorneys said what Torres didn't see was what had happened moments before the shot: Both men reached for the gun.
In opening statements Monday, defense attorney Caleb Cunningham said Montoya acted in self-defense on March 5, 2010, when he wrestled the gun away from Pacheco. He said the gun went off suddenly, startling both men.
"This was a life or death struggle," Cunningham said.
Neither knew right away what or whom had been shot until they saw blood soaking through Pacheco's shirt, Cunningham said.
That's when Montoya allegedly ran.
He was arrested shortly thereafter and charged with first-degree felony murder and second-degree felony obstruction of justice. If convicted, he could face life in prison. But to do that, prosecutors must convince a jury that he acted maliciously with the intent to kill.
That intent, prosecutors said, was evident in the way Montoya acted in the moments before the shooting, which happened outside Montoya's home, near 5700 South and 4600 West.
According to the prosecution, Montoya walked out to the car to confront Pacheco. He did not pause to greet Torres or their three young children.
When the men were face to face, Montoya pulled a gun from his pocket, prosecutors said. He threatened Pacheco, they said, then, as Torres was on the phone with 911, he acted.
"They had dropped off Ana's three children with their father many times before, but this time went terribly, tragically wrong," prosecutor Fred Burmester told the court. "From the moment Joshua Montoya ran out of that house to the moment he pulled that trigger, he was the aggressor."
Throughout the first day of his trial, Montoya sat quietly at the defense table. He wore a light blue shirt, the names of his three children tattooed on his neck. He bowed his head slightly as he listened to Torres' screams.
The trial is scheduled to continue through the end of the week before Judge Deno Himonas.