Bandmate killed woman holding toddler after teasing over politics, witnesses say

A group of bandmates was sitting around a dining-room table in Long Beach ribbing each other about politics when one of them suddenly started shooting, killing a woman holding her 2-year-old and wounding her husband, two witnesses testified at a court hearing Wednesday.

The group was gathered for band practice on Jan. 10, 2017, and they’d started talking about the recent national election when two shots rang out, according to two witnesses, Ramon Chavarria and Miguel Rea, who said they tackled the gunman once they realized what was happening.

“We were asking who voted for who, and we were laughing at each other,” Rea said from the witness stand.

The accused shooter, 37-year-old John Kevin McVoy, is charged with murder and two counts of attempted murder. Prosecutors allege McVoy started by shooting Victor Garcia, who lived with his family at the house where the band was gathered in North Long Beach. McVoy then shot and killed Garcia’s wife, Susan, who had the couple’s 2-year-old child on her lap, prosecutors allege.

In court, Victor Garcia described the sensation of being shot.

“I felt the strong impact on the back of my head, and I lost all control of my body so I couldn’t stop myself from falling,” he said.

Victor Garcia said he remembers seeing his wife on the ground before blacking out and waking up a week later in the hospital where he was left with permanent nerve damage and metal plates in his skull.

At Wednesday’s hearing in Long Beach, Superior Court Judge Jesse Rodriguez decided there was enough evidence to hold McVoy for a full trial, which could be months or years in the future—but that decision does not indicate whether McVoy is guilty.

The hearing also did not directly address whether politics motivated the shooting, but McVoy’s attorney, Sylvan Daroca, spent considerable time asking witnesses about the discussion that preceded the violence.

According to Chavarria, the group was watching President Barack Obama’s speech on TV and having a playful discussion. Chavarria said he teased Victor Garcia about voting for Donald Trump, something Victor Garcia denied, according to Chavarria.

When someone asked McVoy whom he voted for, he told them Hillary Clinton, prompting a joking response from Victor Garcia, according to Chavarria.

“[Victor Garcia] snapped his finger and said, ‘Get the f— out of my house.’ And we all laughed,” Chavarria said. Rea, who was also sitting at the table, testified that he didn’t remember Victor Garcia swearing but remembered him saying something to that effect.

Soon after, McVoy shot Garcia, according to Chavarria, who said he and Rea then rushed McVoy. Rea held McVoy down while Chavarria scooped up the 2-year-old and took the child to a neighbor’s house, he said.

Rea testified that as he struggled with McVoy, he asked why he fired. McVoy said it was because Victor Garcia was “a jihad,” according to Rea.

Outside the courtroom, Daroca, the defense attorney, denied McVoy made that statement.

When Chavarria returned to the house, he kicked McVoy to help get him under control and tended to Victor Garcia, according to his testimony.

Chavarria said he picked up a piece of the baby’s clothes from the floor and used it to stanch the bleeding.

When Victor Garcia asked about his wife, who looked like she’d already stopped breathing, Chavarria said he didn’t answer; he just waited desperately for paramedics to arrive.

McVoy could face life in prison if he’s convicted as charged. He’s being held in lieu of $5 million bail.

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Jeremiah Dobruck is the breaking news editor for the Long Beach Post. He began his journalism career in 2007 as an intern at Palos Verdes Peninsula News and has worked for The Forum Newsgroup in New York City, the Daily Pilot and the Press-Telegram. He lives in Torrance with his wife, Lindsey, and their two young children.