Testimony begins in murder trial; first responders testify about 911 call, crime scene

Published 8:20 pm Wednesday, March 6, 2024

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First responders testified Wednesday of the 911 call placed after the shooting of Juan Vasquez Jr. in August 2022 and what they found at the property south of Albert Lea when they arrived shortly after.

The 911 caller, identified as Adam Sorum, reportedly named the suspect by his first name when asked who had shot Vasquez and could be heard receiving instructions on how to give chest compressions to Vasquez until first responders arrived.

Vasquez ultimately died from a single gunshot wound to the right side of the chest.

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Ben Moreno, 33, of Albert Lea faces five charges in the case, including two counts of second-degree murder in Vasquez’s death, one count of attempted second-degree murder of a second person who was with Vasquez that day, Marco Posada, and two counts of ineligible possession of a firearm.

After the reported shooting, Moreno reportedly fled the scene with two others and was ultimately arrested at a house in rural Forest City, Iowa, on Aug. 11, 2022.

Freeborn County telecommunicator Bobbie Attig said she received the 911 phone call at about 3:20 p.m. Aug. 9, 2022, from an individual who stated someone had been shot at 75463 160th St., south of Albert Lea. The caller stated the man who shot Vasquez had left in a pickup.

Sorum questioned whether Vasquez, who was laying in the grass outside of the house, was still alive and said his eyes were shut and his chest wasn’t moving. A medical dispatcher who joined the call then instructed him how to conduct chest compressions and told him not to stop until law enforcement arrived. The medical dispatcher could be heard counting “1, 2, 3, 4” and many times pausing between groups of four compressions to encourage Sorum to continue the effort. 

Sorum identified the suspect at first as “Ben” and then said that Ben’s girlfriend was the daughter of the man who had been shot.

Freeborn County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Whitney Wacholz said she was in the fourth phase of field training a new deputy when she received a call of an assault and that someone had been shot.

When they arrived, Sorum was doing CPR and Vasquez was laying on the ground. He was not breathing, and there was a lot of blood.

She said the deputy she was with started CPR, and she went to grab a medic bag out of the car. Prosecutors showed the first nine minutes of the footage from her body worn camera, and toward the end of the excerpt showed Mayo Clinic Ambulance EMTs arrive.

Sorum in the video could be heard saying Vasquez had a gun in his pocket, so Sorum threw it away from him.

Freeborn County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Dale Glazier was on patrol the day of the shooting and said when he arrived Wacholz and the officer she was training were still there, along with a few other Sheriff’s Office members. He said he was asked to make a list of everyone at the scene. In addition to Adam Sorum being at the house, his father, Russell Sorum, who owned the house, was also there.

Glazier said Adam Sorum appeared nervous and upset, and Glazier took him up to the Law Enforcement Center to be interviewed. Another person transported Russell Sorum there.

At one point Glazier said he noticed a spent shell casing at the top of the driveway, and he said he and a few others with the Sheriff’s Office cleared the house and shed while they were there to make sure no one was inside hiding.

He described the house as an average-size older farmhouse that was full of clutter and that he didn’t consider habitable. There were also two campers on the property.

Freeborn County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Tim Bennett said he, too, responded to the scene, and when he arrived he parked on the east side of the driveway to the house and saw some broken glass in the gravel road near the driveway.

While others were treating Vasquez, Bennett started taping off the area. The ambulance crews declared Vasquez’s time of death at 3:42 p.m.

Later in the evening, Glazier notified him he had found a small caliber shell casing on the south side of the house that appeared to be from a handgun — .380 or 9mm.

Bennett said as he was getting ready to leave, they noticed some vehicle tracks going through the grass field east of the house to the nearby Interstate 35.

Freeborn County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Jason Hillman said at one point when he was at the scene, he talked to Adam Sorum and asked him how long he had been there, and he said he had been there since the morning. He asked if he had heard shots, and he said that he had.

In cross examination, Hillman said that Sorum had stated he had pulled a gun away from Vasquez but didn’t say why. He noted that Vasquez at one point had walked up on the west side of the house and fired a couple rounds.

Albert Lea Police Officer Matt Loeffler said he was on duty the day of the shooting and responded to a residence on the south side of Albert Lea at 1201 Southview Lane that Moreno had been known to frequent. When he drove by he saw two males and a female next to a white Honda CR-V. When he drove by again, he was ultimately flagged down by another man identified as Posada.

The front two tires were low or flat and the back window was broken out. Bullet holes could also be seen in the trunk. The vehicle was ultimately towed to the Police Department’s city shed and placed into evidence.

Assistant Minnesota Attorney General John Gross said in his opening statement that Vasquez and Posada had gone to the house south of Albert Lea two times that day. The first time they went to drop off some garbage to be burned and Vasquez reportedly fired a couple shots into the air, while Sorum and Moreno were hiding, armed with a shotgun and rifled.

Vasquez and Posada ultimately left and then went to Diamond Jo Casino for a brief time before returning to the house. When they came back, shots were fired at the CR-V they were in. At one point, Vasquez got out of the vehicle a little ways down the gravel road and headed back to the house, where he was ultimately shot closer to the house.

The rifle used to kill Vasquez has never been found.

Vasquez and Moreno were known to be in a dispute in the weeks before Vasquez’s death, with both sides issuing threats to each other, said Emma Winsor, Vasquez’s former significant other. She said she had overheard a conversation about a month before Vasquez died with the two men arguing about a package.

Wednesday afternoon, representatives from the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension who responded to the shooting also testified.

Look for a separate story about their testimony.