Teen to stand trial for aggravated assault in alleged beating at Red Rock Ridge Student Housing

5th District Court in St. George, Utah | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — The man accused of allegedly beating an 18-year-old at a student housing complex in July has been ordered to stand trial for aggravated assault during a preliminary hearing on Monday.

St. George Police officers take one into custody after an early morning incident, St. George, Utah, July 9, 2019 | File photo by Ryann Richardson, St. George News

Kyle Koer, 19, of St. George, appeared in 5th District Court for a preliminary hearing on one charge of second-degree felony aggravated assault and five misdemeanor charges, including criminal mischief, two counts of possession of a controlled substance, one count of paraphernalia and unlawfully providing shelter to a runaway.

The case stems from an incident reported July 9 when police were initially called to the scene of a fight at the Red Rock Ridge Student Housing complex at 1:30 a.m., with witnesses indicating they had heard gunshots.

Officers arrived to find a man, later identified as 18-year-old Skyler Armstrong, suffering from injuries to the back of his head related to blunt force trauma. Armstrong was transported to Dixie Regional Medical Center where he was admitted to the hospital.

Meanwhile, SWAT was called in and staged at Fossil Ridge Intermediate, where a suspect had already been taken into custody. Later, officers located a blue Bentley with three occupants which were taken into custody, along with a fourth person located by officers in the wash.

Koer was arrested later that same day and booked into Purgatory Correctional Facility on $13,400 bail, before being released after posting bond.

During the preliminary hearing Monday, Prosecutor Jim Weeks called a St. George Police detective to the stand who testified that he was called in to investigate the incident which was initially reported as an assault. He also said that by the time he arrived at the scene, Armstrong had already been transferred to the hospital.

St. George Police SWAT stage at Fossil Ridge Intermediate School, St. George, Utah, July 9, 2019 | File photo by Ryann Richardson, St. George News

In his testimony, the detective said he first observed Koer driving past the scene while detectives were in the parking lot, and the suspect was later questioned by police.

The detective testified that the suspect told them he was with Armstrong and another individual the night before during a get-together with friends at his apartment when the two got into an argument and he told Armstrong to leave.

As he did so, Armstrong allegedly threatened Kohr by saying he would return with “guys and guns,” the detective testified. Armstrong allegedly followed through on his threat a short time later when he returned to the complex in a vehicle with several other individuals.

Armstrong jumped out of the car as it continued through the parking lot, the detective said, at which point Kohr told police he struck the rear of the vehicle with a large stick, shattering the window.

Kohr allegedly told police he saw one of the individuals pull out a gun, and then he heard a shot fired as he chased Armstrong, who continued to run toward a nearby apartment complex. When the suspect caught up to him, Koer told officers that he “blacked out, raged,” and he didn’t know how many times he hit Armstrong, “but he hit him several times,” with the stick.

When detectives responded to the hospital a short while later, they learned that Armstrong suffered fractures to his hand and face, the detective said.

During a search of the suspect’s apartment, officers found what appeared to be marijuana and Xanax. They also found a female juvenile staying there who had been reported as a runaway.

During cross-examination, defense attorney Nathan Evershed confirmed with the detective that Armstrong threatened to return with “guys and guns” when he was told to leave earlier that night. He also asked if Armstrong did, in fact, return with two individuals, a girl and a man, and that witnesses reported hearing shots fired, which the detective affirmed.

Evershed also said that a witness reported seeing a vehicle return to the complex later and drop the firearm, which the detective confirmed and said the gun was located by police conducting a walk-through of the area.

When asked, the detective testified that no firearm charges have been filed since the incident took place. He also confirmed during cross-examination that video surveillance was located showing a car matching the description of the vehicle that stopped near the complex when the gun was dropped off, and that the firearm later confiscated by police matched the revolver posted on social media. He said that officers are awaiting the results from DNA testing on the gun.

During redirect, Prosecutor James Weeks said the suspect struck the car with a stick before shots were fired, so he “had no reason to fear there was a gun at that point.” He also said Koer allegedly struck the victim while he was running.

“Skyler was running the whole time,” the detective said.

Weeks closed by saying that Kohr “attacked the victim Skyler, that resulted in broken bones to the victim, which would constitute aggravated assault.” He added that Kohr then struck the vehicle, which supports the criminal mischief charge.

Evershed closed by saying that his client was acting in self-defense since Armstrong threatened to return with “guys and guns,” and then made good on the threat when he returned later when shots were fired.

The attorney also asked that the count of knowingly and intentionally harboring a child be dropped, saying there “is absolutely no evidence that my client, in fact, knew that this person was a runaway.”

The state argued that the juvenile was staying at the student housing complex for two weeks, and the fact that she was a juvenile should have alerted the defendant that she had been reported as a runaway.

District Judge Jeffrey C. Wilcox ruled that the state had probable cause to file that charge, and it would be up to a jury to decide, as “they are the trier of fact,” he said, adding that probable cause exists for all of the charges. The judge then ordered the defendant bound over for trial. A review hearing is scheduled to take place Jan. 14.

Shooting on 2700 East in St. George

Less than five weeks after the alleged incident at Red Rock Student Housing, Armstrong was killed in an Aug. 14 shooting.

Location of shooting incident that took place on 2700 West in St. George, Utah, Aug. 15, 2019 | File photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

In that incident, police responded to a residence on 2700 East in St. George at around 6 p.m. where they found Armstrong inside the home suffering from a gunshot wound to the head. He was transported to the hospital but died shortly thereafter.

Armstrong was allegedly shot in the bedroom of the residence. Multiple juveniles and adults were allegedly present when the incident occurred, according to charging documents filed with the court.

Nicanor Vasquez-Mendoza was arrested and charged with first-degree murder and remains in jail on $1 million bail.

The suspect’s girlfriend, Silvia Lopez, was also arrested and later charged with second-degree felony obstruction of justice and multiple counts of tampering with a witness in connection with the shooting.

Both cases are pending in the courts. Vasquez-Mendoza is scheduled to appear for a preliminary hearing Dec. 12, while Lopez is scheduled for a preliminary-waiver hearing Dec. 10.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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