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Published July 30 2012

Plea deal calls for 12 years in April 2011 shooting at Moorhead trailer park

MOORHEAD – A convicted felon who pleaded guilty Monday to shooting at a man in a mobile home park here said he was trying to defend himself against the man, who had followed him home after a driving incident.

“I was more trying to scare him,” Geraldo Torres said, adding that if he really had wanted to kill the man, he could have run up to him and shot him.

Torres pleaded guilty in Clay County District Court to second-degree attempted murder and being a felon in possession of a firearm.

Under a plea agreement, the prosecution and defense are recommending a prison sentence of about 12 years and three months. Torres will have to spend two-thirds of that time behind bars.

A first-degree attempted murder charge and three other felony charges will be dismissed.

Judge Michael Kirk said he will wait until sentencing to accept the pleas. He ordered a pre-sentence investigation, which normally takes about six weeks.

As part of the plea agreement, Torres, 24, won’t face charges for one of the bullets that hit a trailer occupied by two adults and two children.

“That certainly did play into some of our negotiations and how we determined what would be appropriate,” Assistant County Attorney Heidi Davies said, noting the April 27, 2011, shooting “could have been a lot worse.”

The man Torres shot at, who is not identified in court records, told police he’d been at the intersection of 12th Street and 20th Avenue South when either he cut off Torres’ tan Buick or Torres cut him off. Both vehicles pulled into a parking lot. A passenger in Torres’ car got out and punched the victim several times, and Torres hit his windshield with a metal object, court records state.

The man followed Torres back to Regal Estates mobile home park, where the shooting occurred.

“He said he had something for me, and he followed me all the way to my house,” Torres said in court Monday.

“What was I supposed to do? Just sit there and get assaulted?” he added.

Under questioning by Davies, Torres acknowledged that shooting at the man could be perceived as an attempt to kill him. He admitted he fired at least three shots, though he said it could have been more.

After the hearing, Davies noted there was never any mention of the victim having a weapon.

“So, when you are going to defend yourself if you feel you need to, your response has to be reasonable under the circumstances, and it didn’t feel from the facts of this case that the self-defense came into play,” she said.

Torres fled after the shooting. He was arrested last December when U.S. Marshals tracked him to his mother’s home in Lubbock, Texas.

Torres was convicted of aggravated assault in 2005, barring him for life from possession a firearm.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Mike Nowatzki at (701) 241-5528