A trial began today for a Brentwood man accused of fatally shooting a tenant on his property in 2006 and then throwing the man in the back of a van with all his belongings piled on top of him. Prosecutor Lynn Uilkema argued during opening statements in Contra Costa County Superior Court in Martinez that Robert Altes, 51, committed premeditated, first-degree murder when he fatally shot Pablo Gutierrez, 23, on July 9, 2006.Altes’ attorney Robert Fleming, however, argued that Gutierrez attacked Altes and Altes shot him in self-defense.At the time of the killing, Altes was living on a one-acre piece of property near the intersection of Lone Tree Way and state Highway 4 with his elderly parents. There was also a doublewide trailer on the property with two tenants.Gutierrez had been staying in a camper on the property as well, but didn’t pay any rent.According to both attorneys, members of the Altes family were angry with Gutierrez because they thought he was stealing tools from their shed and selling them to support an alleged drug habit.Gutierrez had been away for a few days, but returned to his camper on the afternoon of July 9. When Altes’ father saw Gutierrez that day, he allegedly told his son Gutierrez was back, Uilkema said.Altes allegedly went down to Gutierrez’s camper, confronted him and then went back up to the house. He went inside, grabbed a .22 caliber revolver, loaded it and then went back outside to confront Gutierrez, Uilkema said.According to Fleming, Altes only put one bullet in the gun and tried use it to fire a warning shot at Gutierrez, but the gun didn’t go off.At some point Gutierrez allegedly grabbed a plastic BB gun kept in the area for shooting feral cats and tried to fire it at Altes, but that gun didn’t go off either.Gutierrez then allegedly attacked Altes and tried to hit him with the BB gun and take his revolver, Fleming said.”If he had succeeded and gotten the gun from Mr. Altes, Gutierrez would be sitting here today,” Fleming told the jury.Fleming said Altes fired a single shot downward in self-defense, but the bullet hit an artery and killed Gutierrez.Uilkema, however, argued that there was evidence that Gutierrez had been beaten, burned and dragged at some point during the confrontation. When police finally found him, his shirt was torn off, he was covered in sand and dirt and there were drag marks on his nose, shoulders and forehead, according to Uilkema.After the shooting, Altes went inside and told his parents and the two tenants that he had shot Gutierrez.One of tenants called Gutierrez’s friends and told them, “Pablo’s been shot. You better come and get him,” Uilkema said.When Gutierrez’s friends arrived, they saw Altes spraying Gutierrez with a hose and telling him to get up, Uilkema said.Fleming claimed that Altes was spraying Gutierrez in an effort to revive him. Gutierrez’s friends couldn’t tell he’d been shot and thought he had just been beat up, Uilkema said.They didn’t want to call police because they had criminal problems of their own and didn’t want to get involved, but Altes allegedly told them if they didn’t take him he would dump him in the Delta, Uilkema said.Eventually they agreed that they would call an ambulance and have it come to a nearby gas station to pick up Gutierrez. Altes allegedly agreed to bring Gutierrez to the gas station and Gutierrez’s friends left to meet the ambulance.Altes allegedly threw Gutierrez into the back of a van then went into Gutierrez’s trailer, gathered up all his belongings and put them in the van as well — on top of Gutierrez.After that, he put air in the van’s tires and went inside to borrow some gas money from his mother.Meanwhile, the ambulance came and left and still Altes hadn’t shown up.Altes allegedly went to a different gas station to put gas in his van before driving past the gas station where Gutierrez’s friends were waiting. A Brentwood police officer flagged him down as he was driving by, Uilkema said.When police searched the van, they found Gutierrez dead in the back.Fleming said that Altes had been on his way to the hospital when the police stopped him. “It’s a tragic situation for both sides,” Fleming said. “…But Bob Altes, like the rest of us, had a right to defend himself.”
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