Man pleads not guilty to attempted homicide in Heights Sonic shooting

2014-07-17T10:23:00Z 2014-07-18T06:55:09Z Man pleads not guilty to attempted homicide in Heights Sonic shootingBy EDDIE GREGG egregg@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

A transient accused of shooting at a Heights fast-food restaurant worker and a police officer on July 6 while high pleaded not guilty Thursday to two counts of attempted deliberate homicide.

Justin Wesley Delacruz, 38, appeared by video from the county jail in Yellowstone County District Court, where he also pleaded not guilty to felony counts of robbery, criminal endangerment and drug possession.

District Judge Michael G. Moses maintained Delacruz’s bond at $1 million.

Delacruz told the judge he wants to have a speedy trial.

Charging documents say Delacruz, who prosecutors identify as a transient, fired a 9mm handgun at an employee at the Sonic drive-in, 601 Main St., and then turned on Billings Police Officer Shane Weinreis, who responded after hearing gunshots at about 8:15 a.m. on July 6.

After being arrested, Delacruz told an officer he “smoked some PCP” and hadn’t been right since, court records state. Police also reported that Delacruz had a plastic bag of meth.

Delacruz has no known ties to Billings and has multiple felony convictions in California, Senior Deputy Yellowstone County Attorney Ed Zink said.

No one was hit by gunfire in the shooting, but glass shattered by at least one bullet injured a Sonic employee, court records say.

The on-board camera in officer Weinreis’ patrol car reportedly video recorded the incident, which unfolded early on July 6, a Sunday, after Delacruz was reportedly seen by a Sonic employee outside the restaurant acting strangely.

The same employee told police that later that morning he was sent across the street to Albertsons, 670 Main St., to buy trash bags.

As the employee was returning to Sonic, Delacruz pulled up next to him in a car and demanded money. The alleged victim said he thought it was a joke until Delacruz started shooting at him, which prompted the employee to run back across Main Street to Sonic.

A manager at Sonic saw what was happening and tried to unlock a door to let the employee back inside, Billings Police Chief Rich St. John said in a press conference.

“One of the rounds hit the door, shattering it, showering her with glass,” he said.

Across Main Street, south of Sonic, Weinreis was monitoring traffic when he heard what he thought were fireworks. But after watching a person run across the street, followed by a vehicle, Weinreis pulled into the Sonic parking lot to investigate, according to charging documents.

Weinreis met the vehicle driven by Delacruz at a 90-degree angle. The patrol car’s camera shows a shot come through the Oldsmobile windshield toward Weinreis, police said.

Weinreis radioed for backup, shouting “shots fired,” court records state, and he got out of his vehicle, used his car door as a shield and fired 11 shots with his Glock .40 caliber

semi-automatic handgun, pinning down Delacruz.

St. John said the entire gunfight lasted one minute, not 90 seconds like police initially said.

Delacruz threw his gun when it jammed, giving Weinreis a chance to rush in and tackle him. Officers later reported that, although jammed with a shell casing, the gun still contained live rounds.

As Weinreis was tackling Delacruz, additional officers arrived.

“Our investigation revealed that Delacruz had been partying for several days, drinking heavily and smoking PCP-laced cigarettes, and he had meth in his possession,” St. John said.

Officers found bullet damage to a drive-in speaker and two storage units across an alley from the restaurant, police said.

St. John said Delacruz has several criminal convictions in California, including possession of PCP for sale. Charging documents say Delacruz also has at least two convictions for DUI.

The car Delacruz had been driving belonged to a local person with whom Delacruz had been partying, according to police.

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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