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Man ordered to stand trial in gang-related Utah homicide

First Published      Last Updated Aug 02 2014 09:58 pm

Ogden • Three letters inked on Ruben Alvarado Nava III's arm were all that was needed to spark a dispute that led to a fatal shooting one September night during a house party in Roy, a police investigator testified in an Ogden courtroom Friday.

Those three letters: SUR.

During Nava's preliminary hearing Friday, Roy police Lt. Danny Hammon testified that Nava was at a friend's house, near 2950 W. 4650 South, for a birthday on Sept. 8, 2013. At some point, a group of men came to the party.

They were Ogden Trece gang members, Hammon said. Nava belonged to the Surenos subset El Monte Flores when he lived in Southern California. The men noticed Nava's tattoo, Hammon said, and began discussing their gangs.

"These discussions led to disagreements," prosecutor Gage Arnold told a judge Friday. "Those disagreements led to arguments. Arguments led to posturing. All of this led to … Ruben Nava grabbing that gun, pointing it toward Mario Saucedo and firing it at least two times into a group of people."

Saucedo, 23, was shot once in the chest. He later died at a hospital.

Nava was arrested at a Clearfield apartment complex the next day. He was later charged with first-degree felony murder, along with two third-degree felonies of use of a firearm by a restricted person and felony discharge of a firearm.

After hearing testimony and a recorded video interview between Nava and investigators on Friday, 2nd District Judge Noel Hyde ruled there was probable cause for Nava to stand trial on the charges. Nava pleaded not guilty and is to be back in court again Sept. 2.

In that recorded police interview, Nava did not dispute that he was the man who held the .38-caliber gun in his hand and fired the shot that killed Saucedo. But he told the investigators that he did it in self-defense.

Nava told the investigators that the party was a family function, and that everyone was eating, drinking and "having a good time," until a group of five or six younger men arrived at the party.

"From the beginning, you know, right away, it was the Ogden Trece stuff," he told investigators. "We just kept telling them, this is a family affair. I even sent my daughter home because it just didn't feel right. I should have left with her."

Eventually, people started to go outside, Nava told investigators. When he went outside, he saw the female homeowner on the ground and the Ogden Trece group "jumping" her husband.

At some point, someone — Nava never admitted who and Hammon said the police still do not know — handed Nava a gun.

"I went out there to try to break it up, then they started focusing on me," Nava said. "I kept telling them, I'm stepping back, man. I don't want no problems. You know, just leave me alone."

Prosecutors contend that Nava then fired two shots into the group of men. He then fled the scene, buried the gun in an empty lot nearby and holed up in the Clearfield apartment, according to Hammon's testimony.

After he was arrested, Nava first told police that he pulled the trigger by accident, then changed his story and said he felt his life was threatened.

"I'm 40 years old, I'm trying to raise my kids," he told investigators. "That's what I'm about now. I didn't want to fight with them. I backed down 'cause I didn't want to fight with them. I understand, I know what this looks like. I know my history. I didn't want to kill no kid. I went out there to stop a fight and that's it."

Hammon said the homeowner's son, who drove Nava away from the house after the shooting, eventually showed police where the firearm had been buried. The gun had belonged to the homeowner, Hammon testified, but police were never able to determine how the gun ended up in Nava's hands. Though the couple who owned the home were arrested on suspicion of obstructing justice in the murder investigation, charges were never filed, according to court records.