Teen admits role in fatal shooting of his friend

Mesa County sheriff’s deputies lead 16-year-old Kenneth Cates to a patrol car after a fatal shooting in this photo taken Sept. 1 in Clifton.

A Clifton teenager told authorities he shot and killed his friend while playing with a pistol he’d found in his grandmother’s garage, using bullets that were found in his mother’s truck, according to an arrest affidavit.

“He was my brother, he was basically my brother,” 16-year-old Kenneth Cates said of Troy Martinez, 16, who died Sept. 1 at Cates’ home, 619 Susan St.

Cates surrendered Friday at the Mesa County Sheriff’s Department after an arrest warrant issued for suspicion of reckless manslaughter, tampering with evidence, illegal possession of a handgun by a juvenile and false reporting to authorities.

A Central High School sophomore, Martinez was found dead near the front porch at 619 Susan St., where deputies arrived to find Cates repeatedly yelling, “I killed Troy, he’s dead,” the affidavit said.

Cates told the deputy he and Martinez had been taking apart a .22-caliber round in order make smoke bombs to set off in the front yard, claiming the round, “went off in my hand and hit Troy.” Cates repeatedly said it was an accident.

Cates’ mother told investigators another story. She said Cates told her he had found a pistol in his grandmother’s garage, and they had been shooting the gun into his bedroom floor. Cates explained he pointed the gun, thinking it was empty, at Martinez and pulled the trigger.

Investigators didn’t hear from Cates until Sept. 21, who was interviewed in the presence of his mother and an attorney.

He said he had found a pistol several days prior to the shooting inside his grandmother’s garage, inside a .410 shotgun case that was leaning up against a gun safe. Cates said he took the pistol and kept it under his mattress or pillowcase.

Before Martinez came over to Cates’ house on Sept. 1, Cates said he was in a room at his home and shot the pistol “10 to 20 times” into the crawl space through the hole in the baseboard. Cates said he stuck the weapon through the hole in the baseboard, “so no one would hear the gun shots,” the affidavit said.

When Martinez came to the house, Cates suggested they shoot the gun.

Cates said the gun was unloaded when Martinez first handled it, then Martinez gave it back to him. Cates loaded bullets.

“I got on my knees,” Cates explained, “I stuck it in the floor, I pulled the trigger until I thought it was empty ... I thought it was empty.

“(Cates) said he stood up and demonstrated how he was standing with the pistol in his right hand, with his right elbow bent against his side.”

When he pulled the trigger again, he saw a “fireball.”

Cates explained he and Martinez were standing about 6 to 8 feet apart when Martinez was shot. Cates answered, “I don’t know,” when asked why he pointed the gun at Martinez and pulled the trigger.

“He said he checked Troy but couldn’t find the wound and only saw blood coming from Troy’s mouth,” the affidavit said.

Cates said he vomited on his bedroom floor and helped his friend stumble out the front door, where Martinez collapsed. Cates said he ran next door, where his grandmother lives, and called 911.

He said he ran back into the home while talking to the 911 operator, retrieved the gun and then hid it under the grass in the backyard.

“The only thing I could think of was I don’t want them to think I just shot and killed him in cold blood,” Cates told an investigator. “I didn’t know what to do, I was freaking out.”

Cates explained he had earlier been firing the pistol in the desert the day before the incident. He explained he found bullets in his mother’s truck.

Cates denied he or Martinez had been drinking or using drugs prior to the shooting.


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