BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — A Kern County judge on Monday ordered a 20-year-old man to stand trial on charges including murder but reduced his bail to $200,000 after a preliminary hearing in which videos were played showing he wasn’t the shooter.
Additionally, prosecutors announced they have waived the death penalty for Aron Flores Jr., 20, who they allege aided and abetted and conspired with his cousin, Arthur Amir Flores, in the fatal 2021 shooting. Aron Flores faces life without the possibility of parole if convicted of first-degree murder, attempted murder and assault with a gun.
He had been held without bail.
Judge Michael G. Bush found there was sufficient evidence for the purposes of a preliminary hearing to hold Aron Flores for trial. Another hearing was set for May 8 at which it’s expected a trial date will be scheduled.
Flores’ attorney, Tony Lidgett, noted his client was 19 at the time with no criminal record. He told the court he was “baffled” by the murder charge brought against Flores and, if anything, he should only be charged with being an accessory after the fact.
“My client did not shoot anybody,” he said during the roughly four-hour hearing.
On May 13, 2021, deputies were called to Acacia Avenue near Linden Avenue — south of Panorama Drive and west of River Boulevard — for reports of gunshots. They found Tyler William Russell, 24, lying in an alley with gunshot wounds to his chest.
He was declared dead at the scene. Another man, Kendrick Donnell Watson, was wounded but survived.
The events leading to the shooting occurred at 7:21 a.m. when Watson arrived at a home on Acacia Avenue where Aron Flores’ father and other family members live. Watson entered the home and allegedly assaulted a woman and possibly even Flores’ father, according to testimony. The woman — the mother of Watson’s children — was involved in a sexual relationship with Flores’ father, deputies said.
According to testimony, Watson was told to leave. Aron Flores told investigators Watson threatened to return and “shoot up” the place.
After Watson left, Aron Flores drove his Chevy Malibu to his cousin’s home, picked him up and the two returned to the Acacia Avenue residence. Both got on the roof facing the alley, which runs east-west, then Aron Flores climbed back down while Arthur Flores remained, according to testimony and video footage.
The footage shows a white van drive into the alley at 8:29 a.m. and stop. Watson and Russell get out. Watson walks onto the Acacia property and out of view of the camera while Russell remains by a gate and appears to be smoking a cigarette.
Aron Flores then drives down the alley and says something to Russell — possibly a warning — as he passes by, according to video and testimony. Aron Flores parks and gets out.
Shots ring out and Aron Flores gets back in his car and drives a few feet forward. Russell, seen from another angle, first holds his hands up then runs to the van and gets inside.
A bullet strike appears in the van’s windshield and Russell gets out and moves to the front of the vehicle where he doubles over then runs west down the alley. He collapses and dies out of view of the camera, according to testimony.
A witness told investigators they heard gunshots and looked out a window and saw someone shooting from the roof, said Senior Deputy Thomas Moore, one of six sheriff’s officials who testified.
A total of five shots were fired, and .40-caliber shell casings were recovered from the roof, according to testimony.
Watson stumbled away from the property. Sgt. Genaro Gonzalez noted there appeared to be a dark liquid — possibly blood — on Watson’s pants. Watson survived his injury.
Following the shooting, Aron and Arthur Flores drove to another residence where they changed their clothes, according to testimony. An aunt drove them to Los Angeles, where Aron Flores lived with his mother.
Aron Flores was arrested in Los Angeles in February of last year. Arthur Flores remains at large.
Aron Flores said he didn’t realize his cousin had a gun until they were on the roof, Gonzalez testified.
But prosecutor John Allen said it can be inferred from the evidence what Aron Flores expected to happen.
“I think his conduct in total indicates they were waiting for the victims to return and shoot them,” Allen told the court.
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