LANCASTER – A 20-year-old man accused of shooting and killing a woman inside a Lancaster smoke shop in January twice pointed a shotgun at the head of another woman just before the shooting, according to witness testimony.
The testimony came Monday at a preliminary hearing for Samy Ali Mahmoud, who is charged with murdering Reyna Gutierrez.
Gutierrez, 23, was shot once in the chest on Jan. 27 inside a back room at the Smoke Shack #2, at 137 East Avenue J in Lancaster. Smoke Shack employees and customers were in the store at the time of the shooting, sheriff’s officials said.
Monique Meredith testified Monday that she was in the room when Gutierrez was shot.
Meredith said she frequently hung out at the Smoke Shack, and she had dropped by that day around 3:30 p.m. for a visit. At the time, Mahmoud was helping customers in the front of the store; then he joined her in the back room, Meredith testified.
Mahmoud showed her the store owner’s shotgun and showed her how to load a round into the chamber before placing the weapon on a couch in the room, Meredith testified. Sometime after the demonstration, she went to retrieve her purse, lost her balance and fell onto the couch, on top of the shotgun, Meredith testified. Mahmoud grabbed the shotgun from underneath her and pointed it at her head as she was lying on the couch, Meredith testified. She said Mahmoud’s face held a blank expression.
“I said, ‘Can you please not point that gun at me? You’re starting to scare me,’” Meredith said.
She said she pushed the barrel away and turned her head, but when she turned back, Mahmoud was pointing the weapon at her head again and wearing the same blank expression.
At that point, Gutierrez entered the room from a bathroom, Meredith testified.
Meredith said she heard Mahmoud say something to Gutierrez right before the shotgun went off. She said she only heard the first few words of the sentence, which were: “Reyna, let’s see if you can catch…”
Meredith testified that after she heard the gunshot, she heard Gutierrez scream “Oh my God!”
She said she saw Gutierrez lying face down on the floor and breathing heavily. Mahmoud ran to the front of the store and called 9-1-1, she said.
“He lied to the operator,” Meredith said.
Mahmoud told the 9-1-1 operator that the store had been robbed, and someone had shot Gutierrez and then run off, Meredith testified. Mahmoud then tried to convince her to tell detectives that the shooting was an accident, Meredith testified. She said when she and Mahmoud were waiting to be interviewed at the sheriff’s station, Mahmoud used hand gestures and mouthed words in an attempt to communicate with her.
“He told me to tell them it was an accident and that he tripped and the trigger was pulled accidentally,” Meredith said.
When questioned by Mahmoud’s defense attorney, Meredith said she and Mahmoud had communicated by telephone and text in the days leading up to the shooting, but the two were not romantically involved. Meredith also said she had left out bits and pieces of her story when she was previously interviewed by detectives on two separate occasions. She said she only told detectives the full story during a third interview. She said her first two interviews were incomplete because she was still trying to process the information.
Also testifying at Mahmoud’s preliminary hearing Monday was pathologist Dr. Brian Hutchins. Hutchins said his autopsy report concluded that Gutierrez died of a single gunshot wound straight to the chest,with no upward or downward trajectory.
At the conclusion of Monday’s hearing, Superior Court Judge Christopher Estes rejected a motion from the defense to dismiss the charges for insufficient evidence. Mahmoud was ordered to trial for the murder of Gutierrez and then remanded back to custody on $2 million bail.
He is due back in court on May 13 for a second arraignment.
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