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Highway Shooter Cleared of Aiming at CHP Officer

Times Staff Writer

A San Fernando Superior Court jury Wednesday acquitted a Newhall man of attempted murder and other felonies in a roadway shooting involving a California Highway Patrol officer.

Margarito C. Leyva, 27, was convicted, however, of possession of a firearm in a vehicle and possession of a concealed weapon. He faces a maximum sentence of six months in County Jail, said Public Defender James M. Coady.

Leyva, a truck driver at a garbage dump, clasped his hands and whispered a prayer of thanks as the verdict was read. If the jury had convicted him of one count each of attempted murder, assaulting a peace officer and shooting at an occupied vehicle, he could have been sentenced to life.

The Aug. 22 incident was one of more than 30 roadway shootings in Southern California last summer.

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During the six-day trial, CHP Officer Charles Cooper testified that he was in his patrol car on the shoulder of Sierra Highway about half a mile south of San Fernando Road when shots were fired at him from the driver’s side of a passing pickup truck.

Cooper said that it was too dark to see the driver’s face, but that he could see muzzle flashes from the gun.

Leyva testified that he fired five bullets in the air to celebrate his favorite song being played on the radio and to test his new .25-caliber handgun. He said he did not know that a patrol car was in the area until it began pursuing him.

Jurors deliberated about four hours before reaching the verdict.

“The jurors told me they believed that the officer may have been mistaken about the gun being pointed at him,” said Deputy Dist. Atty. Shellie L. Samuels. “They felt there was a reasonable doubt.”

Leyva was released on his own recognizance. His sentencing is scheduled March 2.


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