In the early morning hours of New Year's Day, four men broke into the mobile home of Joseph Torrez in Las Cruces, NM. Present in the home at the time were Torrez, his fiance, their 2-year-old son, and the fiance's sister.
One attacker was armed with a sharp length of broken off baseball bat. Another reportedly picked up a knife on the premises. According to Torrez’s lawyer, C.J. McElhinney, the four men were associated with the East Side Locos gang, and have prior convictions for violent crimes. One of the home invaders was even wearing an electronic ankle bracelet.
Torrez, who has been training for nearly a decade at Gracie Barra Las Cruces, and fights professionally in mixed martial arts, was able to drive the intruders from his home.
In the process, Sal Garces, 25, who entered the home with the wooden shank, was killed. Nathan Avalos, 20, was hospitalized, and arrested when released. Leonard Calvillo, 22, who called Torrez on the phone saying "I’ll kill you and your family ... I’ll go to your house," fled and was later arrested, as was the fourth attacker, Raymond Garces, 19, brother of the deceased. Also arrested were two women who accompanied the four to the home.
The attack is believed to have been precipitated by an incident involving the 17-year-old sister of Torrez’s fiance at a New Year’s Eve Party earlier in the evening. Mr. Elhinney said that the young woman got into some type of altercation there with one or more members of the arrested group. The 17 year old then went to the Torrez home as a safety precaution.
Her judgement proved to be correct - her older sister's fiancee was able to protect his family. However, MMA Junkie is now reporting that prosecutors will decide this month whether or not to prosecute Torrez.
Joe Torrez's problem appears to be that he won. If the four attackers had made good on their threat, and killed him, attacked his fiance's sister, and wreaked who knows what havoc on the remaining mother and child, it would be cut and dried. But he defended himself ably, alone killing an armed home intruder, injuring another, and forcing two more to flee, all without a firearm.
Joe Torrez deserves the keys to the city, not a possible legal fight.
Dona Ana County (N.M.) District Attorney Mark D’Antonio said police will recreate the crime scene and use forensic evidence to determine whether Torrez acted in self defense during the invasion on New Year’s Day in Las Cruces.
“Mr. Torrez has not been charged with a crime, and I won’t make any decision in the case until I’m satisfied that the case has been thoroughly investigated,” said D’Antonio.
D’Antonio said Torrez’s background as an MMA fighter will have “absolutely no bearing” on the decision and said his office will focus on whether his use of force was reasonable given the circumstances.
“It’s my belief that just because you’re gifted with certain skills, or size, or ability, makes no difference to me,” D’Antonio said. “If you’re 6-foot-9 and 350 pounds, as long as you act reasonably, then you’re covered. It’s just the same as if you were a 125-pound non-fighter weakling.”
McElhinney said police told him this past week that Torrez would be criminally charged, which prompted him to advise his client against cooperating in the case. He said authorities shifted course when public support emerged for the fighter.
The attorney also said he has hired a retired homicide detective to run a parallel investigation.