First of three shootout suspects pleads not guilty

Published 10:57 am Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The first of three men accused in a December shootout in Austin pleaded not guilty to all charges Monday in Mower County court.

Reynaldo Veraza, 34, of Austin, pleaded not guilty to first-degree rioting armed with a weapon, drive by shooting with dangerous weapons and second-degree assault, all felonies.

Officers went to the 700 block of 11th Street Northeast at about 4 p.m. Dec. 3 after receiving a call about shots fired, according to the Mower County Court complaint. Police also received a call at about 4:45 p.m. from Veraza, who said he had been shot in the chest. He is OK.

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Veraza told officers a man stepped in front of his vehicle and threatened to fight, so Veraza got out of the vehicle, according to the court complaint. While the two argued, another suspect, Fidel Molina, 31, of Austin, emerged from near a house and shot the rear windows out of Veraza’s SUV. Veraza further claims the man who confronted him in the street dropped a handgun, so Veraza grabbed it, got back in his SUV, fled and threw the gun out the window near East Side Lake. Police did not find that weapon, the complaint adds.

In a differing account of the events, Molina claims Veraza and his brother, Raymundo Veraza, 35, of Austin, were the aggressors. He said the Verazas each drove by Molina’s house, parked across the street and argued with the man in the street — the same man who was previously sitting with Molina on Molina’s porch. Molina claims Raymundo drew a gun, so he yelled to his friend in the street before he and that man ran behind his house. Molina and that man reported hearing gunshots. According to the court complaint, Molina admitted to grabbing a .22-caliber rifle and returning fire, which struck Reynaldo’s SUV and hit Reynaldo in the chest.

Police Chief Brian Krueger said last month that detectives found .22-caliber and 9 mm shell casings at the scene. According to the court complaint, gunfire from Raymundo went through Molina’s house and lodged into a neighbor’s house, as well. While Raymundo claims he was at work during the shooting, police discovered he clocked out of work shortly before the shooting. A witness nearby also saw several men standing by the SUVs and arguing before one raised his arm and fired shots. The witness believes someone returned fire from near the house, as well. The officer who spoke with Reynaldo later took him to the Austin hospital for his gunshot wound. The three suspects were held in the Mower County jail on $250,000 bail.

Raymundo faces charges of possessing a firearm as a convicted felon, first-degree rioting armed with a weapon, drive-by shooting with a dangerous weapon, and second-degree assault, all felonies. His next court hearing is Jan. 18.

Molina was charged as a felon in possession of a firearm, as well, along with second-degree assault with a dangerous weapon.

—Matt Peterson contributed to this article.