Transient whose gun went off outside a West Valley City grocery store is hit with federal firearms charge

(Photo courtesy of Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office) Rufino Cervantes

A man who was arrested after reportedly firing a stolen gun accidentally — sending bullet fragments into a West Valley City grocery store and hitting three people — has been indicted on federal firearms charges.

Due to the federal indictment, the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office on Thursday dropped the handful of felonies and misdemeanors the man was facing in 3rd District Court.

Rufino “X Peewee” Cervantez, a 36-year-old transient, now faces a single count of being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition in U.S. District Court. (Cervantez had previously been convicted of multiple felonies in California: bringing a controlled substance into prison, possession of a firearm, prisoner in possession of a weapon.)

Cervantez was arrested a few hours after the April 11 shooting outside of a Smith’s at 4065 S. Redwood Road in West Valley City.

He told police that he nearly dropped a Kel-Tec .22 pistol, accidentally firing it in the process. The bullet struck his right leg, and fragments of the bullet injured three others, including a 3-year-old girl with cancer and her mother. The two were in town from Las Vegas for cancer treatment.

Cervantez fled but was found hours later at a nearby apartment. He was charged with second-degree felony theft by receiving stolen property, class B misdemeanor discharge of a firearm and class B misdemeanor possession or use of a controlled substance. He was previously convicted of a felony, so he was also charged with second-degree felony possession of a dangerous weapon by a restricted person. He also was facing a third-degree felony obstructing justice.

(Patrick Fitzgibbon | KUTV) Police arrested this man Wednesday, April 11, 2018, after he allegedly shot three people at a West Valley City Smith's grocery store that day. He allegedly suffered injuries not related to the shooting.

However, all those charges were dropped Thursday, when he was scheduled to appear for a preliminary hearing. According to the court docket, the charges were dropped because Cervantez had been indicted by a federal grand jury on April 19.

Cervantez is facing a maximum of 10 years on the federal charge. Had he been found guilty on all of the state charges and been given consecutive sentences, Cervantez could have faced up to 36 years at the Utah State Prison.

Melodie Rydalch, spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, says she wasn’t sure if local prosecutors asked the office to consider federal charges, but in general there is a lot of coordination on weapons charge cases.

“This is the kind of case we are very interested in,” she said.

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