Michael Tafoya admits to firing 19 rounds during testimony in shooting trial

Steve Garrison The Daily Times
The Daily Times

AZTEC — Witness Michael Tafoya testified Thursday that he fired 19 rounds from two different handguns during an attack by alleged assailant Lawrence Kellywood, who is accused of attempting to kill Tafoya at his home at 101 E. Hopi St. in July 2013.

Kellywood, 28, is charged with several violent felony offenses in connection to the incident, including attempted first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder and shooting at an occupied building (causing death or great bodily harm).

He was initially charged in July 2013 with first-degree felony murder in connection to the death of Christopher Valdez, a bystander killed by a stray bullet in the shootout.

However, presiding Judge John Dean ruled in February 2014 that neither Kellywood nor co-defendant Levi Wilson could be held responsible for the death since prosecutors could not prove one of the two men fired the fatal bullet.

Kellywood's defense attorney Cindy Leos argued in her opening statement Wednesday that it was Tafoya who shot and killed Valdez. Leos further alleged that Tafoya shot at Kellywood first without provocation, thus challenging who acted in self-defense on the day in question.

Tafoya, 29, told the jury Thursday he had never met Kellywood before finding him standing in front of the door to his home on July 27, 2013.

Tafoya said Kellywood did not speak and pulled out a 9 millimeter pistol and shot into his home. A second man, whom Tafoya could not identify, was standing farther back and also appeared to be armed, according to Tafoya's testimony.

Tafoya told the jury Kellywood's first round hit and disabled the door's latch. He said he held the door shut and "felt a sting" as a bullet pierced the door and grazed his left arm.

Tafoya said he kept a .357-caliber revolver in a concealed-carry holster on his hip.

"I step back, the door opens, and I shot two rounds at Kellywood and two rounds against the other man," Tafoya testified.

The other man, prosecutors allege, was Wilson, who would later appear at the San Juan Regional Medical Center with gunshot wounds to his hands and arms. Tafoya said he knew he shot Kellywood, too.

"I shot once at the chest, and the second time I shot, I seen the teeth fly out of his head," Tafoya said.

Kellywood was later treated at the hospital for a gunshot wound to the face. Detective Heather Chavez testified Thursday that the bullet pulled from Kellywood's jaw was saved in an evidence bag.

Tafoya's description of the shooting hewed closely to testimony provided Wednesday by his girlfriend, Kathleen Keck, and friend, David Anderson, all three of whom were at the residence on July 27, 2013.

Tafoya said after he emptied the revolver out the front door, he went to the gun safe in his bedroom and pulled out a .45 caliber pistol. He admitted to firing that gun until it was empty, too, and said during cross-examination it was possible he shot Keck in the chaos of the moment.

He denied shooting Valdez during a tense cross-examination by Leos.

Tafoya admitted in cross-examination that he smoked marijuana daily in July 2013, but said Anderson and Keck lied when they claimed he was a dealer.

However, Naomi Roberts, a crime scene investigator with the San Juan County Sheriff's Office, would later testify that marijuana and a "green liquid" were found in Tafoya's safe, along with several firearms. Roberts said she believed the liquid was related to narcotics.

Tafoya also begrudgingly admitted that Keck's sister's boyfriend had threatened to kill him about a month before the shooting.

A week before the shooting, Tafoya received a text message from an unidentified individual who threatened him harm over unpaid debts, according to evidence presented by Leos.

Roberts testified Thursday about the collection of evidence at the crime scene. She said investigators took samples of blood found on the porch, in the living room, on Tafoya's safe and in an alley next to 101 E. Hopi St.

Farmington police crime scene technician Terry Eagle testified Thursday afternoon as a state expert in blood stain analysis and crime scene reconstruction.

He said physical evidence at the scene suggested that about four bullets were fired into the residence. However, Eagle said during cross-examination that he could not determine who shot first.

He also admitted that he could not say a 9 millimeter shell casing found outside the residence was fired on the day in question.

The state rested its case Thursday. The defense is expected to present its case today, the final day of the trial.

Steve Garrison covers crime and courts for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4644 and Follow him on Twitter @SteveGarrisonDT on Twitter.