After almost five-and-a-half hours of deliberation on Tuesday, a Missoula County District Court jury found 22-year-old Anthony Mascarenas not guilty of attempted deliberate homicide for shooting his fiancee with an AK-47 after an argument last year.
However, the jury did find Mascarenas guilty of an alternate charge of felony assault with a weapon.
Mascarenas crossed himself after the verdict was read aloud in court.
In a police interview after he was arrested, Mascarenas told detectives he hadn’t been trying to shoot the woman, but was trying to hit a vehicle across the street to scare her into dropping her phone after she called 9-1-1.
The sentiment was echoed during the two-day trial by Mascarenas’ attorney Steven Scott, who repeatedly termed the shooting as an error in judgment by his client.
“He’s guilty of being impulsive, rash, not thinking through his actions, and making a foolish decision,” Scott said, adding that if his client wanted to kill the woman after she fell from the first set of shots, “he could have walked up and shot her point-blank.”
Mascarenas, who has been in custody since his arrest, remains in jail on a $250,000 bail until his sentencing on Sept. 26.
Mascarenas was arrested in the early-morning hours of July 30, 2016, after a shooting outside the apartment he shared with his girlfriend on the 1700 block of Howell Street.
After an argument, the woman left. Mascarenas, believing she was calling the police, grabbed an AK-47 and several loaded magazines from a case in the home and followed her outside, then fired six times, hitting the woman in the knee and also striking an SUV parked across the street. The woman was eventually taken to a Seattle hospital for emergency surgery.
The woman did not testify during the trial.
Mascarenas, who drove away after the shooting, called 9-1-1 shortly afterward and turned himself in at the Rock Creek exit of Interstate 90.
On Tuesday, Travis Spinder — a firearms expert with the Montana State Crime Lab — testified about the pattern of bullet holes on the vehicle that was across the street from the woman when Mascarenas fired the rifle.
Scott asked if Spinder had been called to the scene by investigators to examine the car in person and use techniques to re-create the trajectory of the shots. Spinder said he had not been asked to do that.
Detective Sean Manraksa with the Missoula Police Department, one of the two detectives who investigated the case, said the re-creation wasn’t necessary because Mascarenas told them where he had been standing when he fired, and that location matched where detectives found spent shell casings from the rifle.
Manraksa, who is also an instructor for the SWAT team at the Missoula Police Department and a SWAT instructor at the Montana Law Enforcement Academy, said the shot pattern on the car could be attributed to an inexperienced shooter tracking a moving target.
“It’s very difficult to hit a moving target on your first shot,” he said.
Mascarenas’ attorney did not call any witnesses at trial.
In his closing remarks, Chief Deputy County Attorney Jason Marks reminded the jury of Mascarenas’ own statements in his police interview, when he said that after firing the shots and seeing the woman fall, he smelled the gunpowder and realized what he had done.
“In those moments, he was trying to kill her,” Marks said.