SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) — A jury convicted a man last week for the 2021 murder of Alonso Garcia-Mendoza, 32, who was killed during a drug deal that turned into a robbery and shooting, according to the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office.
Following a 4-day trial, Shihab Wesaga, 21, has been found guilty of all 14 felonies on Friday, April 28, including first-degree felony murder, aggravated robbery, four counts of first-degree felony discharge of a firearm, three counts of second-degree felony discharge of a firearm, four counts of third-degree felony discharge of a firearm and obstruction of justice.
Wesaga pleaded not guilty to all 14 charges back in January 2022. His sentencing has been scheduled for July 6. Wesaga, along with three other individuals, was accused of luring Garcia-Mendoza to meet up for a drug deal with the intention of robbing him. The robbery ended with Wesaga and another man firing at Garcia-Mendoza’s vehicle, killing him and injuring two others.
“Gun violence in our community will not be tolerated. The crimes committed by Mr. Wesaga not only put those involved in danger but also those who live in the neighborhood where the shooting happened,” said Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill.
According to court documents, officers with the Unified Police Department responded to the LDS Church parking lot at 5305 W. 5400 S. on March 9, 2021, on reports of a vehicle crash. While they were on their way, officers also received reports of shots fired in the same area. Upon arrival, two men were found in a crashed 2014 BMW with gunshot wounds. A third man, later identified as Garcia-Mendoza, was found dead in the driver’s seat of the vehicle.
The two men were transported to the Intermountain Medical Center with critical injuries. One of them was shot in the chest and had two collapsed lungs. The other man suffered a gunshot wound to his hand and an injury to his face, according to charging documents.
Video surveillance showed a red Saturn fleeing from the church’s parking lot after the shooting. UPD detectives were able to identify the four occupants as Wesaga, Dalmar Abdi, 19, Jonathan Montrail Johnson, 21, and a then 15-year-old boy.
When interviewed, Abdi revealed that the 15-year-old boy set up a meeting with Garcia-Mendoza with the intention to rob him during the drug deal, court documents stated. The 15-year-old boy allegedly told Abdi they “needed guns” and ordered Abdi to pick up “shooters,” to which Abdi obliged. Police say Abdi did not know the two men he picked up on the way to the LDS church with the 15-year-old boy. The “shooters” were reportedly later identified as Wesaga and Johnson.
When they arrived at the LDS Church, Abdi said he parked the red Saturn right next to a black BMW. Two men allegedly got out of the BMW, and then two other men armed with guns exited Abdi’s vehicle as well. At this point, the two men from the BMW reportedly returned to their car and began to pull away, and that was when “the shooters” from the red Saturn started firing at the BMW.
The Utah Office of the Medical Examiner determined Garcia-Mendoza’s cause of death as a gunshot wound that entered his left arm, penetrated his heart and then exited through his right arm. He was also reportedly shot in his jaw and lower back. His death was ruled a homicide, charging documents stated.
Wesaga turned himself in on March 17, 2021. He said he didn’t know anything about the shooting and was at his girlfriend’s house, but his cell phone placed him at the LDS Church at the time of the shooting, according to court documents. Wesaga’s prints were also found on the inside of the red Saturn.