Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville
Assigned on Briefs February 15, 2017
from the Criminal Court for Davidson County No. 2010-B-1410
Cheryl A. Blackburn, Judge
Juan Diego Vargas, was convicted by a Davidson County jury of
first degree murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. On
appeal, he challenges the sufficiency of the evidence. After
a review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court. However,
it appears that the trial court failed to enter a judgment
form dismissing Count Three of the indictment. Accordingly,
we remand for entry of a judgment form dismissing Count Three
of the indictment.
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Criminal
Court Affirmed and Remanded
Kovach, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Juan Diego
Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Clark
B. Thornton, Senior Counsel; Glenn R. Funk, District Attorney
General; Doug Thurman and Lody Limbird, Assistant District
Attorneys General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.
Timothy L. Easter, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in
which Thomas J. Woodall, P.J., and Robert W. Wedemeyer, J.,
TIMOTHY L. EASTER, JUDGE
and his brother were indicted by the Davidson County Grand
Jury in April of 2010 for first degree murder and employing a
firearm during the commission of a dangerous
felony. The incident giving rise to the indictment
occurred on March 1, 2010, inside Las Potrancas Bar on Haywood
Lane where Manual Santos Reyes, the victim, was shot. He died
from a gunshot wound to the head several days later.
El-Assuli, a licensed armed security guard, was employed by
the owner of the bar, which was primarily patronized by
Spanish-speaking customers. At the time of the incident he
had worked there approximately eight months. His job required
him to search the customers coming in for "[a]ny guns,
any weapons" and to "maintain peace inside the
bar and watch the customers." Mr. El-Assuli did not
evening of Sunday, February 28, 2010, business was slow
inside the small bar, which was located in a building that
used to be a Waffle House. A few "regular"
customers, including the victim and his friend, Antonio
Hernandez, were inside the bar playing pool. The victim was
dating one of the servers, Laura Cervantes.
9:00 p.m., Mr. El-Assuli searched a man entering the bar. He
did not recognize the man, who sat with several of his
friends at a table in the back corner of the bar near the
pool table. Mr. El-Assuli did not see any interaction between
the men seated at the table and the victim during the
2:15 a.m., Mr. El-Assuli checked the bathroom to make sure it
was empty because it was approaching closing time. When he
exited the bathroom, he saw the man get up from his table in
the far corner of the bar and walk toward the exit door.
According to Mr. El-Assuli, the man stopped near the pool
table and "looked like he said something" to the
victim, possibly even whispering it to him. Mr. El-Assuli
thought the interaction between the two men lasted anywhere
from ten to thirty seconds. Then, the man pulled a gun from
his waistband, pointed it to the victim's head, and
pulled the trigger.
El-Assuli testified that he pulled out his gun, pointed it at
the man and pulled the trigger before realizing that the
safety was engaged. Mr. El-Assuli quickly put his gun back in
the holster, "hoping" that the man did not see him
because the man's "friends got all around him,
" trying to take him outside. The man "climb[ed] on
top of [his friends]" and pointed his gun at Mr.
El-Assuli and tried to ...