CROWN POINT | After deliberating about four hours Friday, a Lake Superior Court jury found a 20-year-old East Chicago man guilty of voluntary manslaughter in last year's shooting of Alonzo Cavazos.
Charged in May 2009 with murder, voluntary manslaughter and reckless homicide, Julius Solis had stood accused of shooting Cavazos, 31, during what Lake Deputy Prosecutor Mark Watson described as an "ambush."
Cavazos was shot in the back of the head May 3, 2009, outside his father's house in the 4800 block of Walsh Avenue, about a half-hour before a shooting in the 3900 block of Parrish Avenue that killed Solis' uncle, Alejandro Solis, 47.
Six months prior to the two May 3 shootings, another Solis family member, a brother to Julius Solis, also had been killed. Relatives of Cavazos contend the man was shot because Solis believed Cavazos' family either had information on Solis' brother's death or were responsible for it.
During the trial, ballistics experts testified to examining at least 19 bullet casings -- from a minimum of four weapons -- recovered at the sites where Cavazos and Alejandro Solis were shot.
Seven of the bullet casings were tied to the weapons Solis admitted firing during the Cavazos shooting.
Two eyewitnesses testified to seeing Solis pulling a gun, firing and running from the scene along with his younger brother, then 14. The younger Solis testified to his brother's firing multiple times.
Court documents show Julius Solis told police he and his brother were walking in the alley at 148th Street and Walsh Avenue when several men approached, one or two of whom pulled out their guns. Solis told police he knew the men were going to kill him, so he fired first with the men returning fire. He then grabbed his brother and both ran into a friend's house on White Oak Avenue.
Solis told police both he and the other shooters were members of the Imperial Gangsters who did not get along because of his brother's death.
During closing statements Friday, Watson told jurors Solis initially denied events, only later turning to claims of self-defense.
Watson said Cavazos was shot squarely in the back of the head.
The brothers ran from police and hid the guns at the White Oak house, he said.
"If you're truly getting shot at, why hide the guns?" he said, also arguing the brothers, as victims, wouldn't have needed to run from police.
Watson argued the evidence and even Solis' own statements showed he fired first with the crossfire coming "after the fact" of Cavazos' shooting.
But defense attorney Matthew LaTulip argued Cavazos was shot during what amounted to Solis' attempts to defend himself and his younger brother against the other shooters. The brothers' actions prior to the shooting didn't indicate a planned "hit," he said.
Evidence showed Solis was firing both guns while walking backward.
"He was getting out of Dodge," LaTulip said.
LaTulip sought to cast doubt on witness accounts and the police investigation, which included a 90-minute delay in securing the crime scene.
LaTulip urged jurors to put themselves "in Julius's world," not their own, in considering whether the state had proven Solis did not act out of fear.