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1 brother pleads guilty in fatal freeway shooting of Navy ‘good Samaritan’

A judge's gavel. (Dreamstime/TNS)

One of two brothers accused in the shooting death of a Navy man who stopped on a freeway to help an apparently stranded motorist pleaded guilty on Friday to voluntary manslaughter.

Brandon Acuna, 22, was not the gunman but was with his brother, Edson Acuna, when Curtis Adams was shot a moment after getting out of his car on Interstate 15 in Logan Heights.

The shooting occurred about 2:20 a.m. on Oct. 27, 2018. Prosecutors say Edson Acuna was standing outside his car, parked on the shoulder with the hazard lights on, and gunned down 21-year-old Adams in a case of mistaken identity.

Edson Acuna, 25, is charged with murder with a special-circumstance allegation of murder in the commission of a robbery. His trial is set for Feb. 3. He faces life without the possibility of parole if convicted.

On Friday, Brandon Acuna pleaded guilty before San Diego Superior Court Judge Charles Rogers to voluntary manslaughter and assault with a deadly weapon with an allegation of vicariously using a gun. Acuna agreed to accept a 13-year prison term when he is sentenced on March 13.

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The case involved a tangled mess of violent confrontations at two locations.

About 10 minutes before Adams was killed, the brothers and a third man, Harvey Liberato, were alleged to have stopped at a Mount Hope home and tried to break into a vehicle. When the owner came out of his house to confront them, one or more of the trio opened fire on the man. Rounds flew into the house but missed the owner.

Edson Acuna drove away, but one of the tires on his vehcile had been shot and he pulled over on the I-15 shoulder. When Adams’ stopped behind them, they thought he was the homeowner who had followed them.

Adams’ girlfriend testified at a preliminary hearing that as Adams pulled over, he told her, “I’m going to be a good Samaritan today.”

Adams was a first-generation American whose parents were from the West Indies, family said. He enlisted in the Navy in 2016. He was a steelworker with Amphibious Construction Battalion 1 and was stationed at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado, military officials said.

Liberato and a woman who was with him and the Acunas, Susana Galvan, have pleaded guilty in connection with the slaying.

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© 2020 The San Diego Union-Tribune