Louis Salgar and his two roommates were living the Miami life. The 29-year-old played guitar for a punk band and poured cocktails at bars in Wynwood and Miami Beach, a trade he loved so much that he even entered bartending competitions.
But one roommate, worried about safety in Miami’s Upper Eastside, bought a .357-caliber Magnum pistol he kept in his bedroom dresser. He placed a note next to the weapon: “This gun is loaded. Do not touch.”
That same pistol, a prosecutor told Miami jurors on Thursday, was stolen by an intruder who then used it to murder Salgar when the bartender interrupted a ransacking of their home in June 2014.
“That is one of the sickening ironies of this case,” prosecutor Scott Warfman told jurors during opening statements. “That gun [he] had in this drawer to protect the ones he loved was the murder weapon.”
Thursday marked the first day of testimony in the trial of that suspected intruder, a 55-year-old named Raul Reinosa, who is charged with armed burglary and first-degree murder. The prosecutor called him a “crackhead who roamed the earth looking for drugs, looking for money to buy drugs”
For Salgar’s friends and supporters, who watched from the courtroom gallery, the trial was a long-delayed chance at justice for a man known for his love of the arts.
Salgar played with a group called Secret Arms, which disbanded after his death. Well-known on the bar circuit, he poured cocktails at Gramps, a hip bar in Wynwood, and at the Broken Shaker on Miami Beach. He also competed in the Bacardí Legacy Global Cocktail Competition.
He was also a photographer. Two years after his death, one of his professors at Miami Dade College displayed his photos in an exhibit called “In Memory of Louis Salgar: The Ultimate Ninja Warrior.”
Salgar lived with friends Robert Baydes and Ryan Grandy, who bought the gun months earlier after someone tried to break into their home in the 8400 block of Northeast Eighth Court while he was inside. “It was pretty frightening,” Grandy testified on Thursday. “I wanted to protect my house from many kinds of criminal element.”
That would have been people like Reinosa, who did a three-year prison stint for robbery back in the late 1990s. Police say he is also responsible for an additional armed robbery, and a burglary, in Miami-Dade. He is awaiting trial on those cases.
In the murder case, Reinosa tried unsuccessfully to fire his attorney on Thursday morning, before briefly saying he wanted to represent himself. “All I want to do is die already,” he blurted out.
He is not facing the death penalty, but he could be sentenced to life in prison if convicted. The judge left his lawyer on the case — he told jurors police had no eye witnesses to the murder or even physical evidence tying him to the scene. “Where are the fingerprints?” defense lawyer Tony Moss said.
Miami police believe Reinosa chose the house at random, breaking in by shattering a window with a brick. Investigators say Reinosa stole Salgar’s phone and Honda Accord, driving it north before crashing it into a tree in Palm Beach County.
Baydes discovered the ransacked home and his friend’s body soon after the murder. “There was stuff thrown around everywhere. There was blood everywhere. There was a bullet hole in the wall,” Baydes said.
Jurors will also hear that Reinosa sold the gun and tried to sell a laptop stolen from the home. The jury got to see both items Thursday.
And after he was arrested in St. Augustine, Reinosa confessed to detectives, admitting to the break-in, claiming the gun “went off in a struggle,” Warfman said. Medical evidence shows Reinosa actually shot Salgar in cold blood and then hit him on the head with the weapon, Warfman said.
“It’s a day of reckoning for you, Mr. Reinosa,” Warfman said.
The trial continues Friday before Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Marisa Tinkler Mendez.