SIERRA VISTA — A man accused of killing a teenager in a drive-by shooting is also on federal probation for illegally smuggling undocumented people into the United States, a Cochise County prosecutor revealed in court Wednesday.
That information, as well as other instances of criminal behavior that police attributed to murder suspect Rick Martin, prompted a superior court judge to rule that Martin will remain at the Cochise County Jail without bond.
“The state does believe this defendant is one of a group of individuals in Sierra Vista who is responsible for a great majority of the violent crimes in Sierra Vista,” prosecutor Michael Powell said at Martin’s bail eligibility hearing Wednesday. “If he is released, there will be further violence.”
Martin’s attorney Nathaniel Redmon, meanwhile, argued that Martin was a lifelong resident of Sierra Vista who holds a steady job and has roots in the community. He said a GPS monitor could be placed on the suspect.
The 20-year-old Martin has been charged with first degree murder and other crimes in the drive-by shooting death of Jorge Portillo on Sept. 28 in Sierra Vista, police said.
The fatal incident occurred in the late afternoon along Fry Boulevard after Martin spotted 18-year-old Portillo driving east in a black truck past 7th Street, according to police. Investigators said Martin drove his red Honda up alongside Portillo’s driver’s side and shot at him four times. Three of the bullets struck the door of the truck. One penetrated the headrest of the driver’s seat and then struck Portillo in the head, Sierra Vista Police Detective John Andela said.
Portillo lost control of the truck and slid into a wash just east of the Pizza Hut Bistro at 900 E. Fry, Andela said. Martin bolted from the scene, his Honda found later that night in the parking lot of an apartment complex. He was arrested the next day, Sept. 29, when he surrendered to police.
Andela said he has been dealing with Martin ever since the suspect was a minor. He said Martin’s juvenile record includes assault, disorderly conduct and shoplifting.
Martin was on the other side of a different drive-by shooting on May 15 in Sierra Vista, Andela said. The shooter in that case, Joseph Ahrens, has pleaded guilty and is expected to serve 15 years in prison, prosecutors have said.
Andela said Martin, his girlfriend, and another man went to buy marijuana from Ahrens the night of the shooting and they got into an argument. Ahrens chased them off the property, then pursued them in a vehicle, shooting 10 times at the car Martin was riding in.
The shooting erupted at 7th Street and Busby Drive and a handful of stray bullets struck two mobile homes at a park at the intersection, Sierra Vista Police said. There were children in both those residences. Ahrens is scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 16.
Andela also testified Wednesday that Martin is on federal probation for human smuggling. The detective said that in the last two years, there have been between five and eight drive-by shootings in Sierra Vista and that several of the battles are linked to the illegal smuggling of people into this country.
“Right now smuggling people is more lucrative than smuggling drugs,” Andela said when Superior Judge Laura Cardinal asked about the issue. Andela explained that different factions of gang-like groups in the area want their share of the human smuggling enterprise, and conflicts have erupted over that.
The conflict between Martin and Portillo had nothing to do with human smuggling, however. The pair had been in a physical fight in August after Portillo’s girlfriend had struck Martin’s mother’s car in front of Martin’s house, Andela said.
Portillo’s girlfriend left the scene and headed back to Portillo’s house to get him so both could return to Martin’s house, Andela said. When they returned, the couple was greeted outside the house by Martin and another man. Martin then assaulted Portillo, Andela said.
Sierra Vista Police spokesman Corporal Scott Borgstadt recently said Martin and Portillo had been feuding with each other since that altercation.
The afternoon he was killed, Portillo and the mother of his baby were heading to the woman’s house to pick up the child, Andela said. The woman later told police that Portillo saw Martin in his rearview mirror and mentioned that Martin had beaten him up in August.
A few minutes later, police said, Portillo was shot in the head by Martin.
No weapons were found in Portillo’s truck, Andela said, but two guns were confiscated from Martin’s house. Andela said the firearms had been purchased by Martin’s girlfriend Kayla Lewis. She was riding with Martin the day Portillo was shot, Andela said.
In an effort to demonstrate that Martin posed a danger if released on bond, Powell pointed out that Martin fired four shots in broad daylight on Fry Boulevard, as several people went about their business.
Powell also said “the waters had been stirred on both sides,” referring to Portillo’s and Martin’s friends.
“If this defendant is released, someone may die,” Powell told Cardinal before she ruled. “And it could be the defendant.”
Aside from the bail eligibility hearing, Martin was also arraigned on Wednesday in Cardinal’s courtroom. He pleaded not guilty to the 11 counts listed in his indictment, which include attempted murder and weapons charges in addition to the first degree murder charge. He is in custody at the Cochise County Jail.