Editor’s note: Gregorio Vences-Benitez was acquitted of the murder charge on the justification of self-defense during a September 2022 jury trial.
AUSTIN (KXAN) — U.S. Marshals arrested an 18-year-old on a murder charge Tuesday in the shooting death of a teenager.
U.S. Marshals said Gregorio Vences-Benitez was taken to the Austin Police Department after his arrest and now has a bond set at $500,000. He was found in the 1100 block of Peggotty Place in north Austin near the Walnut Creek Greenbelt.
Vences-Benitez was found not guilty of murder during a jury trial in September 2022. He was acquitted of the charge on the justification of self-defense.
The shooting happened Sunday in the 8100 block of Research Boulevard in north Austin, near a mobile home park. A caller reported they heard multiple gunshots in the area. When officers arrived, they found 15-year-old Juan Cruz laying in the street with apparent gunshot wounds. He died at the scene, APD previously said.
The Travis County Medical Examiner’s Office performed an autopsy and found the official cause of death to be a gunshot wound in the manner of homicide, according to APD.
After the investigation, a murder warrant was issued for Vences-Benitez the day after the shooting, U.S. Marshals said. The warrant said a car of young people was detained, and they told officers Vences-Benitez was the shooting suspect.
They said Vences-Benitez allegedly shot the victim from an SUV after the victim approached the car. According to the warrant, Vences-Benitez and the victim knew each other and had prior arguments.
APD asked for help in finding Vences-Benitez from the Lone Star Fugitive Task Force.
The task force discovered Vences-Benitez may be living in the greenbelt area along Walnut Creek. After more investigations, task force members saw him leave the area and enter a car at the trail head on Peggotty Place, where he was arrested.
A memorial for Cruz was set up near the mobile home park.
Crime in the community
Multiple neighbors told KXAN crime is rampant within the community.
One person, who said he had lived there for more than 20 years, said he regularly calls 911 about drug trafficking that happens on the street. A different neighbor, who has lived there for more than a decade, said she is afraid to let her three children out of their home due to the activity and speeding vehicles.
“It was really scary to see him on the floor,” one neighbor told KXAN about the shooting that killed Cruz. “Even though I didn’t know him, it hurts.”
One person flagged the KXAN crew on scene and pointed to five bullet holes in the window of a vehicle parked on the side of the street. They said that had happened just a few weeks prior.
Crime in this particular community is something Austin City Council Member Greg Casar said he is aware of. The District 8 representative said he wants to establish a citywide program, targeting low-income communities, where people go door-to-door and discuss gun violence while trying to resolve conflicts that already exist in the neighborhood.
“We want to invest resources into this neighborhood and other low income communities to make sure that we are preventing violence before it starts,” Casar said.
Casar said he wants to fast track programs like these and bring it to a vote at council next week. He said it’s something the North Lamar Community could use and is asking for.
“What they are asking for is some resources and support from the community to make sure that this awful shooting doesn’t escalate into more problems,” Casar said.