Arkansas Restaurant Employee Killed After Winning at Casino

An employee at a restaurant in Arkansas is under scrutiny after being accused of shooting a co-worker after the victim won a prize at a casino located nearby. As the Gentry, Ark. Police Department reports, officers were called at La Huerta restaurant on Wednesday at 11:030 am. They investigated a victim being shot at the back of the head at the establishment, located on Fowler Street.

The police issued more details via a Facebook post and said that dispatch informed officers that the victim was an employee of La Huerta and was located in the kitchen. Additionally, it also advised that the suspect was in a black or grey pickup and fled the scene.

The Victim Identified as Fidel Mercado Reyes

Medical personnel were already tending to Fidel Mercado Reyes, 40, when police arrived on the scene. As the police stated online, Reyes had a gunshot in the back of the head. Law&Crime obtained court documents that stated that the victim was actually alive at the scene, but died shortly after being transported to the Siloam Springs Regional Hospital by ambulance.

A bullet fragment and a 9mm bullet casing were retrieved from the scene and, according to witnesses, the suspected shooter is Martin Eduardo Tavarez Torres, 21, who was recently hired as a cook and is from Bartlesville, OK.

Torres fled the scene in an extended cab pickup – a dark grey 2004 Chevrolet shortly after committing the crime. As the documents reveal, Torres was wearing a black hat, an apron and a white sweater. Court papers portrayed the scenes at the restaurant by explaining the 911 call, made by Yesenia Alaniz, the restaurant manager.

She said that an employee was bleeding from the head after an accident in the kitchen. Moments after saying that, a background voice told her in Spanish that someone was shot in the back of the head. After being asked who committed the crime, Alaniz responded by saying that it was the cook who was just hired the day before.

Then, Alaniz gave a physical description of the suspect and stated that she didn’t know which way he fled. Moments after the call ended, the police launched a manhunt, but even though the police were joined by neighboring agencies in the cursory search, they didn’t locate that suspect, as the police stated. As a precautionary step, the local school district, a nearby daycare facility and city hall were contacted and informed of the events.

A BOLO (Be On the Look Out) bulletin was issued by the police for Torres in the Chevrolet pickup with license plate number KPN-196. As evidence on the scene suggested, they indicated that he may be armed and dangerous, which is why citizens were warned to call 911 and not approach the suspect.

At first, officers suspected that the suspect may have been headed home, but employees of La Huerta told police that his brother lived in Fayetteville, AK, which is 45 minutes away from Gentry. Court documents stated that the suspect wasn’t at his brother’s house; however, his sister-in-law called 911 and helped officers find Torres with ease. She told dispatchers that he parked in the vicinity of her home and wanted to get rid of the car. She also told dispatchers that Torres didn’t want his parents to know where he was.

The suspect was arrested about four miles away from the house of the step-sister, in the vicinity of the Krupa Drive and Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard intersection, located in Fayetteville. As court documents indicate, officers returned to inspect the truck of the suspect and found no license plates on it. Subsequently, Fayetteville relatives told authorities that Torres admitted to pushing a man during an altercation and that the man had passed away. Authorities found a stashed suitcase in his relatives’ house but didn’t comment on what was inside.

According to relatives, Torres wanted to get rid of the truck and its license plates because the former owner threatened him.

After his arrest, Torres was returned to Benton County Jail, but as court papers state, he didn’t speak to any of the officers. Further investigation showed that Torres was Erasmo Santillan’s nephew. Santillan is the owner of the restaurant.

The Victim Helped the Suspect Settle In the Area

According to reports, Torres actually slept at the victim’s house overnight. The victim was helping him settle down in the area after Torres moved there from Oklahoma. Moreover, it is also said that they rode to work that morning together.

As court records suggest, Torres also had a run-in with Bartlesville authorities earlier this year and has gotten himself in trouble numerous times of reckless driving, driving without a license (twice) and drunk driving.

His sister-in-law and his brother confirmed that the motive for the crime was a slot machine ticket that the victim won at Cherokee Casino, located in West Siloam Springs, OK. Court records had all the details on their explanation.

Records state that the brother of the victim, Victor, said that Mercado Reyes, the victim, tried to redeem the ticket at the said casino but wasn’t able because his passport expired. The brothers planned to get Mercado Reyes’ new passport, which is why they made an appointment on Monday, November 8, in Houston, TX. Victor said that they left for Houston the day before the appointment and arrived there in the morning, at 9:30 AM. Mercado Reyes got his new passport and as his brother stated, they drove to Cherokee Casino in West Siloam Springs. They arrived at the casino on Tuesday at around 2 AM.

However, staff told them to return during the daytime to redeem the ticket and as Victor stated, he and Fidel planned to try again on November 10, which was the day of the shooting. Hence, the ticket wasn’t redeemed, and as court documents state, Victor said that his brother had both the passport and his winning ticket in the wallet on November 10. The victim’s brother and sister-in-law thought that the ticket was worth 200,000 credits, and according to them, it could’ve been either $20,000 or $200,000.

Authorities Noted that The Victim Didn’t Have His Belongings in the Hospital

As authorities stated, Reyes didn’t have his wallet, nor the winning ticket and passport when he was at the hospital. However, the winning ticket and passport were found in his jacket, which was left at the restaurant.

Law&Crime obtained jail records that state that Torres is accused of aggravated assault, first-degree battery and attempted capital murder/capital murder. A bond amount hasn’t been set. Fort Smith said that the brothers of the victim described him as a really good individual.

A GoFundMe has been set to cover the expenses for the funeral. In it, it is stated that the twin sons are 12 years old. The chief of the local police expressed his condolences to the family on behalf of the Gentry Police Department via Facebook.

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