Quarrel heats up, man shot to death
Jenny Wood saw it only briefly, but the image stayed with her: a man, his face awash in what seemed to be confusion, staring at another man, who was holding a gun.
But several hours passed before she realized she had witnessed a homicide.
"It looked like a real gun, but it didn't sound like real gunshots," Wood said. "My mom said, 'You know, that could have been a real gun,' and I said, 'No, Mom, no way.' I was thinking that no one would just be standing there, right in the middle of everything, and do that."
But Salt Lake City police on Thursday evening said Jeffery Maestas, 21, was indeed shot at close range near the corner of 700 North and Starcrest (1840 West) at about 4:40 p.m. in a gang-related shooting. Maestas died at the end of a driveway from multiple wounds.
Friends said it was an avoidable tragedy. Maestas was driving west on 700 North on his way to Las Vegas when he spotted a man he wanted to confront.
The argument was brief: Maestas pulled over, got out of the car and approached the man.
The man pulled a gun and fired as he chased Maestas around his car. After the shooting, the man jumped into another car and fled, according to Salt Lake City police spokesman Dwayne Baird.
Maestas' violent death upset those who knew him, but it wasn't a surprise.
Utah court records show Maestas was charged in 2001 with aggravated robbery, kidnapping and attempted murder. The charges were dismissed several days before he was to go to trial. Specifics of the case were not immediately available.
"He had a lot of enemies," said a woman who has known Maestas for several years. "He is in a gang. This is what he has always done. He is always feuding with somebody."
Glancing back at the body covered with a single white sheet, she said: "That is him right there. That is his life."
Maestas' brother arrived after the shooting Thursday, trailed by police officers trying to control his emotional outbursts.
Calling people on his cell phone, the brother repeatedly screamed "They killed him. They killed him," then buried his face in his hands as he sobbed.
Diane Servin and her husband were on their way to visit another friend when they saw Maestas' car and the police.
"He was in my wedding," Servin said. "I pray that his baby's mother is all right."
She said Maestas has a 5-month-old child.
Police say witnesses provided them with a description of the suspect, but they were not releasing any details late Thursday.
Wood said she didn't get a good look at the shooter. She was driving her mother to dinner when she heard a series of four or five "pops" and saw Maestas running from a man with a handgun.
"He turned and put his hands over his head," she said. "He looked a little confused, maybe a little scared, but mostly bewildered."
But he didn't fall and Wood didn't hear any more shots. So she drove on.
It wasn't until she arrived at the restaurant that she learned there had been a fatal shooting in Salt Lake City, realized she was a witness and contacted police.