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'Melee' leads to murder
Jun 02, 2004 12:00 am
The stabbing death of a Leeville Pike man came during a "melee" in which two groups squared off against each other wielding knives and machetes, leaving up to four others wounded, authorities say.
The altercation which erupted into a frenzy of cutting and slashing apparently began with "two different groups" arguing "over a job" in a parking lot of the Leeville Pike Apartments, Lebanon police Cmdr. Terry Bowman said.
"It was just a melee," he remarked. "Basically you had two groups who got into a confrontation and the knives and machetes started coming out."
Killed in the violent fracas was Natalio Berrera, 28, who Bowman said sustained "at least one stab wound" in the early Saturday incident.
Charged with criminal homicide in his slaying is Gustavo Lopez, 24, who remained in the Wilson County Jail yesterday under $750,000 bond, officials said.
Though a preliminary hearing for the suspect is set for July 27 before General Sessions Judge Robert Hamilton, a Wilson County Jail official said Lopez would probably be taken before a judge today.
Jail Supervisor Capt. Robert Bryan said a preliminary hearing may be conducted sooner if Lopez remains unable to make bond, something that may be determined when he makes his initial court appearance today.
Bowman said the others injured in the blade-filled fracas "had some bad wounds but none that looked to be life-threatening." He was unsure if any were hospitalized as a result of their injuries.
At one point, as the blades flashed in combat, police believe one individual fired a rifle though Bowman said it remained unclear if the shooter was firing at someone or merely aiming the weapon up into the air.
The gun has not yet been found, though he said investigators recovered the knife believed to have been used in the mortal stabbing of Berrera.
The investigator said officers were unsure what type of job the two groups were arguing over, but said the scene of the slaying has "developed a reputation as sort of a party place" with several residents of the area on hand as the fatal brawl erupted.
However, he indicated investigators were getting little cooperation from both the wounded and witnesses alike.
"Their attitude was that they are from Mexico and this is the way they handle these things. They said they handle things like this themselves," Bowman remarked. "With that type of attitude it's not surprising you have something like this break out, with a man dead and three or four others cut up."
Both the victim and suspect are believed to have been residents of the apartments, authorities said.
The slaying was Lebanon's first homicide of 2004. The city's last murder came in October 2003 with the still-unsolved beating death of a man inside his condo, also located in the Leeville Pike area.
Senior Staff Writer Brooks Franklin can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 14 or firstname.lastname@example.org.