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Utahn playing with gun fires weapon, killing man, charges say

A West Valley man was charged Friday with manslaughter. Police say he was playing with the hammer of his gun when he pointed the weapon at a man and the weapon fired, killing the man.

A West Valley man was charged Friday with manslaughter. Police say he was playing with the hammer of his gun when he pointed the weapon at a man and the weapon fired, killing the man. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)



WEST VALLEY CITY — A West Valley man who prosecutors say was playing with the hammer on his gun when it went off, striking and killing a man, now faces criminal charges.

Michael Manuel Melara, 22, who goes by the moniker "40," was charged Friday in 3rd District Court with manslaughter, a second-degree felony, plus possession of a firearm by a restricted person and obstructing justice, both third-degree felonies.

On May 26, West Valley police were called to the Granger Medical Clinic, 2965 W. 3500 South, on a report of a vehicle in the parking lot with its lights on and the back passenger door open. In the back seat, Juan Jose Zamora Guerrero, 27, was found dead from a gunshot wound.

The car was discovered about 5:15 a.m., but court documents state that after reviewing surveillance video, detectives determined it was dropped off about 8:30 p.m. on May 25. Surveillance video also recorded a 15-year-old boy getting out of the car, walking up to the entrance of the clinic, then opening the rear passenger door of the car and running off.

Police were able to identify the boy and questioned him. The first two times they interviewed him, the boy claimed Guerrero was snorting cocaine, acting "crazy," and had shot himself, according to charging documents.

But during the third interview, the boy admitted he was "hanging out with 40" and doing drugs with him while sitting with him in his truck, the charges state. Later, Guerrero came to the house with a friend.

While the group was there, "Melara was playing with a revolver and kept cocking the hammer and releasing it." Melara then pointed the gun at Guerrero, and "the gun went off," according to the charges.

The teen told police Melara then told him to drive Guerrero to the hospital because "he would not get in as much trouble," the charges state.

Police questioned Melara and he gave a similar story that he was sitting in his truck and cocking the hammer back on his gun while holding it in his left hand out the window when Guerrero started walking toward him.

"Melara admitted that he pointed the loaded gun at Mr. Zamora Guerrero and as he was de-cocking the gun, it went off, the bullet striking Mr. Zamora Guerrero," the charging documents state.

Melara then helped put Guerrero into the back seat of Guerrero's car, put the gun in the back seat next to him, and told the teen to drive him to the hospital, according to the charges.

Prosecutors have requested that Melara be held in jail without bail.

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