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Man charged with 3 separate Fresno County killings says shootings were all in self defense

In World
April 16, 2024

A somber gathering in southeast Fresno to mourn a woman who died in a car crash was shattered by the sudden sound of gunfire that ended with a man shot and killed.

Andrew Levi Hammond, a 28-year-old from Coarsegold, is accused of three separate killings in Fresno County between 2020 and 2022.

Opposing attorneys in Hammond’s triple-murder trial, which got underway Monday, argued that one of the shootings transpired either out of self defense or over a petty beef between rival gang members.

Hammond was charged with murder in the fatal shootings of Fernando Gonzales, 41, on Sept. 28, 2020, Steven Rice, 47, on Oct. 21, 2022, and Brandon Munoz, 39, on November 2, 2022.

He faces a potential life sentence and the death penalty.

Fresno County Superior Court Judge Johnathan B. Conklin is hearing the case.

2020 fatal shooting

The first day of witnesses surrounded the 2020 killing of Gonzales.

Attorney said Hammond shot Gonzales in a driveway outside an southeast Fresno home where a mother was holding a rosary gathering for her daughter who’d died in a crash.

Hammond, who appeared in court in a gray suit and with his hair shorter than it appeared the day he was arrested, contended through his attorney that he fired in self defense.

On that day in 2020, Gonzales was asked to leave the gathering because he was visibly drunk and arguing with another person in the home’s backyard, witnesses said.

Hilario Gutierrez Cruz, a witness, said he took Gonzales out of the gathering and began to drive the inebriated man home, but Gonzales would not get out of the car. They ultimately bought some beer and returned to the home where the rosary was held.

Gutierrez Cruz testified Gonzales fell asleep in the car’s passenger seat, which was reclined, then someone approached the vehicle from the backyard and fired several rounds and killed Gonzales. The witness said he never saw Gonzales with a gun.

Deceased victim an agitator?

Other testimony, however, painted Gonzales as an agitator.

That Gonzales had a gun on him and shouted disparaging remarks at those gathered for the rosary. Some testimony recalled that Gonzales yelled “I’ll be back” as he was escorted from the gathering.

The mourning mother, Enelida Mora Garcia, testified she could hear from the backyard of the home Gonzales and others arguing in the front yard. She asked Gonzales to leave, then asked him again to leave after he returned.

She said she did not know the shooter but described him as having a large “Fresno” tattoo across his chest. In court Monday, a large Fresno State logo was visible on the right side of Hammond’s face.

Witnesses testified they believed Hammond and Gonzales were in rival gangs.

Case about disrespect?

Defense attorney Richard A. Beshwate Jr. in his opening statements said Hammond heard the sound of the slide of a gun being racked or cocked before he opened fire into the car.

“Mr. Hammond then acted in self defense,” the defense attorney said.

Mora Garcia testified she heard a strange sound before the gunfire started, but she could not say if it was the sound that the slide of a handgun makes.

Senior Deputy District Attorney Kelly Smith argued Hammond was not acting in self defense — rather he was angry with Gonzales.

“This is a case about disrespect and what the defendant, Mr. Hammond, does when he feels disrespected,” he said.

The trial is estimated to last about six weeks and will continue Tuesday.

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