A 23-year-old man, Carlos Almanzar-Torres, has been sentenced to life imprisonment without parole for the murder of a 19-year-old man, Damian Santiago, over a dispute regarding an unpaid $50 phone bill. The incident took place at a gas station store near Philadelphia, where Almanzar-Torres shot Santiago and assaulted him as he lay dying.
The prosecuting Assistant District Attorney, CJ Restemayer, described Almanzar-Torres as an angry man who hunted down another human being, attempting to shoot him five times and assaulting him as he lay dying. Restemayer emphasized that the tragic incident resulted in the loss of two lives – Santiago’s and Almanzar-Torres’ own. The victim’s family sought justice, which was delivered by the jury.
Judge David Ashworth criticized the defendant, stating that the situation was entirely avoidable and unnecessary. Almanzar-Torres and his defense counsel chose not to make a statement during the hearing.
The fatal incident occurred on March 14, 2022, just after 10 p.m. The altercation began outside the gas station but soon moved inside. Santiago punched Almanzar-Torres in the head, leading to a scuffle that ended with Almanzar-Torres firing a shot from his gun. The bullet went through his sweatshirt and lodged in a freezer.
Despite his gun jamming, Almanzar-Torres pursued Santiago around the store. Once he managed to unjam the gun, he fired a shot over an aisle, hitting Santiago in the shoulder. The bullet pierced Santiago’s lung and lodged in his heart, according to the forensic pathologist’s testimony. Almanzar-Torres then assaulted the fatally wounded Santiago before fleeing to his apartment. He surrendered to the police an hour later.
During his trial, Almanzar-Torres’ defense lawyer requested the jury to consider a verdict of voluntary manslaughter. However, the jury returned a guilty verdict of first-degree murder and two counts of recklessly endangering another person within an hour. Restemayer, in her closing argument, stated that Almanzar-Torres had instigated the fight and brought a gun to a fistfight, ensuring it ended in murder.
Santiago was remembered as a lover of basketball, video games, and music. His online fundraiser described him as a peacemaker who loved his family and had a great sense of humor.