Closing arguments begin Thursday in trial of Port Arthur man charged in shooting outside pizzeria

Published 7:00 pm Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Witnesses identified a Port Arthur man as the shooter in 2019 when a Beaumont man was killed following an altercation at a restaurant.

That testimony came from a member of the Beaumont Police Department as trial resumed for the second day in the 252nd District Court.

Martin Vincent Pettway, 23, was charged with murder following the Aug. 17, 2019, death of Jesse Rodriguez.

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Xavier Michael Parrish, of Groves, and Nyah Mayfield, of Port Arthur, were subsequently charged in relation to the shooting. As of Wednesday afternoon, only Pettway remained in the Jefferson County Correctional Facility on bonds totaling $1,040,000.

According to police reports, Rodriguez was shot following an altercation at Cicis in Beaumont. Rodriguez, who was 20 at the time, reportedly bumped into another person’s chair, resulting in an altercation outside the restaurant. At approximately 5:47 p.m., as the victim left the restaurant with his friend in the vehicle, Rodriguez was shot near the intersection of Dowlen Road and Eastex Freeway.

The friend, Erick Fuentes, testified this week.

He called Rodriguez his best friend and said the two had gone to school together. They went to Cicis with a group of friends.

Fuentes said Rodriguez was getting up and came close to another man’s chair, when the man responded with “watch it.”

When asked if he recognized the man in the courtroom, Fuentes identified Pettway.

The 23-year-old said his friend walked out of the restaurant and entered into a verbal altercation with Pettway and Parrish. The group of friends then went outside.

“When they saw all of us walk out, they took off,” Fuentes said. “They just walked away.”

Fuentes said he got into the passenger side of Rodriguez’ truck and the two sat in the vehicle for a few minutes talking when he noticed a car containing the people from the altercation come up behind the truck for a moment before leaving the parking lot.

Rodriguez pulled onto Eastex Freeway at the Dowlen Road stoplight when Fuentes saw the car from earlier.

“My eyes never left the black car,” he said.

Fuentes said with the first gunshot, he thought a tire had blown. Shortly after hearing additional shots, he saw Rodriguez slump over and let go of the steering wheel.

“I reached over while still ducking down and parked it,” he said. “I was trying to get him down, too, but his body was still.”

Rodriguez had been shot in the back of the head.

Ray Fernandez, a medical examiner who performed the autopsy on Rodriguez, said the bullet entered the back left side of his head but did not exit the body.

When describing an X-ray submitted into evidence, Fernandez said you could see the bullet toward the base of the skull, as well as the metal braces on Rodriguez’ teeth.

Hunter Jones, a firearms examiner with the Jefferson County Regional Crime Lab, said five cartridges were recovered from the scene, and all appeared to have been fired from a Glock semi-automatic pistol.

Lance Latino, who lives in Kountze, was leaving Parkdale Mall with his 10- and 8-year-old daughters when the shooting occurred. His truck was struck by one of the bullets as he was waiting to make a turn under the overpass and head back north.

He heard the first shot and said out loud that he thought it was gunfire.

“They didn’t realize what was happening. When I said that, she was scared,” he said of his 10-year-old child. “And that’s when she told me it hit the truck, ‘they’re shooting at us. Go, go, go.’”

The case rested at the end of Wednesday’s testimonies.

Closing arguments begin Thursday morning.