Express-News Staff Writer
Two men were charged Thursday with capital murder and two counts of attempted capital murder in a shooting at the Taco Land music venue.
The attack in the early hours of June 24 claimed the life of the club's owner, Ramiro "Ram" Ayala, and sent two employees to the hospital.
Fingerprints found on a pool cue and the identification of the men in photo lineups earlier this week led officials to issue the charges, police Sgt. Gabe Trevino said.
Joseph Gamboa, 22, already was in Bexar County Jail on charges of attempted capital murder and attempted murder in connection with a South Side shooting spree that took place two days after the Taco Land slaying, Trevino said.
He was re-arrested and charged Thursday afternoon.
A police SWAT team arrested Jose Najera, 29, without incident at a house in the 500 block of Wilmington Avenue about 3:10 p.m. Thursday.
Najera's was held in lieu of posting combined bonds of $700,000. Gamboa's bond wasn't immediately known.
The slaying of Ayala, owner of the small, grisly nightclub in the 100 block of West Grayson Street, shocked the community. Both the venue itself and Ayala had become mainstays of the city's underground music scene since he converted the spot into a bar in 1969.
Witnesses said both men had spent part of that night drinking and playing pool inside Taco Land.
Trevino said detectives believe Gamboa fired the shots that hit the bar owner and wounded Denise Koger, 41, and Douglas Morgan, 53.
Morgan, the club doorman, remained in serious condition Thursday at University Hospital. Koger, a bartender, had been discharged.
The only known motive for the 1 a.m. shooting is robbery, the sergeant said. Money from the cash register was taken before the attackers fled in a silver sports car.
Music promoter and longtime Taco Land devotee Roland Fuentes wasn't there that night because the scheduled bands had canceled. But some time after the shooting, he talked to Koger, who told him the assailants never before had been inside the bar.
"They didn't look familiar," Koger reportedly told Fuentes. "They didn't know how much beer prices were. They didn't know a lot of little things like the regulars would know."
That night, Najera wore an old San Antonio Spurs championship T-shirt, according to an arrest affidavit. The shooting occurred a few hours after the team clinched the NBA Championship.
Najera first denied being at the club, saying he was at his girlfriend's house and then left for home after the Spurs' win.
He later admitted he got one beer at Taco Land and then left before the shooting took place, the affidavit stated.
A witness quoted in a June 25 San Antonio Express-News report said he saw one of the attackers strike up a conversation with Ayala and then stick a gun in his gut before he fired.
The affidavit said both Koger and Morgan then got down on the ground behind the bar. When Morgan got up to help Ayala, Gamboa asked him if he planned to help get the money. Then Gamboa shot him.
Najera commanded Gamboa to "make the bitch open the cash register," the affidavit continued. Gamboa grabbed Koger by the hair and forced her to open the register. She turned around to open another drawer filled with money when Gamboa shot her in the back.
The status of the case seemed static until Saturday, when a witness who played pool with Gamboa and then watched the shooting identified him from a photo lineup. Gamboa's fingerprints were found on a pool cue, Trevino added.
Detectives questioned Najera on Monday; and two days later, Koger picked out his image from another lineup, Trevino said.
How investigators narrowed their search to the men remains unclear.
Prior to their arrests Thursday, both Gamboa and Najera had a tower of other charges stacked against them.
Gamboa had been in jail since June 27, the day after he's accused of speeding through the South Side on a would-be killing spree and firing on four people, wounding two of them.
He was arrested just days before he was to appear in District Court on a December charge of felony possession of a firearm, according to Bexar County records.
He also had a list of other convictions against him, including burglary of a building and possession of a knife.
A July 26 court date was set for Gamboa on a marijuana possession charge.
Najera's criminal history is similarly varied: He pleaded no contest to burglary of a vehicle and two counts of vehicle theft in 2000; and again pleaded no contest to another charge of vehicle theft and evading arrest in 2003.
He pleaded guilty to unauthorized use of a vehicle in 1997.
Hours after the pair were charged in the Taco Land slaying, Fuentes fielded phone calls as news of the arrests spread.
He was relieved but also felt more sadness knowing two suspects were behind bars.
"Now I know for sure that it's the end," Fuentes said.