Tucson man may face life in prison for Nov. 2011 shooting

A Tucson man suspected of murdering one man and injuring another is claiming that he acted out of self-defense, he told jurors Thursday.

Joe L. Medina, 33, is on trial in Pima County Superior Court for a shooting on Nov. 18, 2011 that killed 34-year-old Michael Grijalva and wounded 28-year-old Julio Colon.

Medina is charged with first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and possession of a deadly weapon by a prohibited possessor, according to court documents. If he is found guilty, he could face a minimum of life in prison with a chance of parole after 25 years.

Medina, who testified on Thursday, told jurors, “I shot them because they were going to attack me.”

According to court records, the shooting took place at a midtown apartment complex on South Columbus Boulevard and East 29th Street. Medina told the jury that he was visiting the residence of a female co-worker, who invited Medina over to hang out.

Medina said that he had been at the complex for nearly eight hours before Colon and Grijalva showed up, drinking alcohol and socializing with the co-worker’s friends and family. When the two men arrived, Medina remained in the apartment while the woman went downstairs to the parking lot to greet them.

Grijalva and the woman, who were dating at the time, got into a fight shortly after he arrived, according to Medina. The woman’s twin sister, who lived at the apartment complex, began complaining about Grijalva, to which Medina said, “If anyone tries to hurt your sister, I won’t let it happen.”

According to Medina, Grijalva and the woman reconciled after a short period of time. The woman returned upstairs to the apartment, while Medina and a man he met at the party went downstairs to converse with Grijalva and Colon.

Medina said that he had made it known to the people at the apartment complex that he was carrying a gun, even letting one person shoot a bullet in the ground. He brought the gun out again to show it off to the three men in the parking lot.

“It was a way for me to start conversation,” Medina said. “I felt that everyone there should know that I had a gun.”

Medina, who has already been convicted of three felonies and has served over five years in prison, said that he purchased the gun because he felt unsafe in his neighborhood. According to the defendant, all four men in the parking lot were in gangs and asked

each other their affiliations. Medina, who was born in Hunting Park, Calif., stated his affiliation, which turned out to be a rival gang of Grijalva’s.

Medina said that he also told the three men that he had just gotten out of prison, to which Grijalva asked which unit he was housed in. When Medina answered the men, Grijalva and Colon accused him of being an “S.O.,” which is slang for sexual offender.

Referring to somebody as a sexual offender is instruction for gang members to inflict physical harm on someone, according to Medina.

According to Medina, Grijalva began charging at him, so he pulled the gun out of his right pocket and shot him three times. When Colon began reaching for something in the nearby car, Medina shot him twice.

“I thought that I was going to get jumped by all three of them,” Medina said.

More than 20 people showed up to the courtroom to watch Defense Attorney Vincent Frey and Prosecutor Alicia Robertson question Medina in front of a jury.

Judge Howard Hantman presided over the trial.

Note: This assignment was completed in Journalism 413: Reporting Public Affairs class.