DaVinci club shooter faces 25 to life after jury verdict

jdeleon@bradenton.comMarch 14, 2014 

BRADENTON -- Defense attorney Connie Mederos-Jacobs put Javier Aguilar on the witness stand Friday in an all-out self-defense strategy, but even she couldn't overcome a surveillance video that clearly showed no visible threat Aguilar shooting Natividad Faudoa in the parking lot of DaVinci's nightclub on May 26, 2012.

Perhaps based on the strength of that video played over and over in Manatee County Judge John F. Lakin's courtroom, a jury of four women and two men found Aguilar guilty as charged of second-degree murder with a firearm Friday night.

The jury deliberated from 8 p.m. to 9:10 before reaching the verdict.

A sentencing hearing will be scheduled in the near future, but the 25-year-old Aguilar faces a minimum of 25 years up to life in prison, said Assistant State Attorney Darlene Ragoonanan.

There were no outbursts when the verdict was read or throughout the trial, which saw between six and eight Manatee County Sheriff's Office deputies on hand Friday.

Lakin allowed Aguilar to walk to the witness stand unshackled after explaining to him not to take advantage of the court's generosity. Aguilar, who had about 10 family and friends at the trial, was mannerly throughout.

Aguilar, in fact, seemed to be a very credible witness for himself, explaining that he wasn't even in the "VIP room" at DaVinci's with his friends when a bottle was tipped over, igniting an all-out fight.

Aguilar said that for reasons he didn't know, six males at the club wanted to hurt him and they proved it by smashing a beer bottle in his face.

Under questioning by Mederos-Jacobs, Aguilar explained that he felt his life was in danger after the bottle caused a deep gash over his left eyebrow that bled profusely.

"I was afraid for my life," Aguilar said, explaining why he got a gun out of his truck and shot Faudoa.

Two other defense witnesses on Friday, Gordon Merritt and Aguilar's brother, Jorge, also told the jury that Javier Aguilar seemed ganged up on.

"Mr. Aguilar was afraid for his life," Mederos-Jacobs said. "These other men were like a pack of wolves intent on finishing Mr. Aguilar off."

But when the video of the shooting itself was played to the jury during closing rebuttal by Ragoonanan's fellow prosecutor, Julie Binkley, it showed that Aguilar could have gotten into his truck and driven away or ducked down behind it or even gone back inside the club to escape his tormenters who were all drifting away to their vehicles after getting kicked out of the club.

"The video played a very crucial role in this case," Ragoonanan told the jury in her closing arguments.

The video shows Aguilar rushing out into the parking lot of DaVinci's, 105 Cortez Road, Bradenton, and opening the driver's door of his truck.

It shows Aguilar reaching inside the driver's side of the truck, then walking about 10 feet behind the vehicle and pointing a gun with his arm extended. An instant later, a man in an orangy-red shirt, later identified as Faudoa, falls down about 30 feet away.

What also may have hurt Aguilar's case is that Faudoa was not the man who hit him in the face with the beer bottle.

Prosecution case rests with Pena

Testimony Friday morning was solely from Juan Pena, a friend of Faudoa's who was with him at the club the night of the shooting.

Pena had accidentally bumped a bottle off the table where Aguilar and his friends had been sitting as he was trying to get out of his VIP area, just to the other side of a sheer curtain.

"Next thing I know some man grabbed me by the shoulder," Pena said. "He kept telling me I dropped his bottle and I said no I didn't."

Not having realized he must have knocked it off accidentally, Pena and Aguilar's friend eventually shook hands, and he thought it was all settled, he testified.

Aguilar and his brother, who had not been present at the time, soon returned, he added.

"At the point I knew something was going to happen, both of them were pretty hyped up," Pena said. "I'm am not sure who he hit, but as soon Javier hit someone, this other guy rushed me."

Video surveillance shown in the courtroom confirmed testimony about how a brawl quickly ensued. Both groups of men were then kicked out of the club by security.

"Next thing I know I felt someone walking right behind me, after everything that had happen inside," Pena said. "I turned around, he said (explicative) that, we were all going to die."

Pena then recounted while watching video for the first time, how Aguilar walked to his truck and returned armed.

"He walked up, Javier, and shot him," Pena said. "He turned around and kept shooting."

Pena said at that point he sought refuge inside the club before later returning to his friend's side.

After the shooting, Faudoa was taken to Manatee Memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Aguilar was later identified as the suspect in the shooting.

On Oct. 2, he was located by the Florida Regional Fugitive Task Force of the U.S. Marshal's Service in Lakeland, He was driving the same truck seen in surveillance video leaving the scene.

In an attempt to flee, Aguilar reportedly rammed his truck into a federal officer's vehicle. He was then shot, causing him to crash his truck into a tree.

Aguilar has a federal hold and is expected to face federal charges.

Aguilar is a convicted felon with prior charges of possession of cannabis, trafficking cocaine, fleeing or attempting to elude an officer and possession of a controlled substance.

Two of his convictions resulted in him being sentenced on Aug. 26, 2008, as a youthful offender to four years with the Florida Department of Corrections for one case and one year for the other, both to run concurrently.

Aguilar was released from prison on Aug. 6, 2011, and placed on probation.

Faudoa's was the second fatal shooting involving DaVinci's Nightclub after an altercation there in 2012.

Ruben Harris was found shot to death on April 30, 2012, in the parking lot of a Shell gas station at the intersection of 301 Boulevard East and Ninth Street East.

Harris was followed there by Earl Scott after the two argued in the club.

On Thursday, a judge sentenced Scott to life in prison.

Jessica De Leon, Herald law enforcement reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter@JDeLeon1012.

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