North Waco woman found guilty for aggravated assault against neighbor receives 10 years probation
WACO, Texas (KWTX) - A jury that convicted Angelica Gallegos of shooting her neighbor in the face granted her wish for probation Wednesday.
Jurors in the 19th State District court deliberated about five minutes before recommending that Judge Thomas West place Gallegos on felony probation for two years.
The judge accepted the jury’s verdict but ordered Gallegos to serve 10 years on probation. The jury assessed no fine in the case.
Gallegos and her attorney Walter M. Reaves Jr. declined to comment after the three-day trial.
While prosecutors Duncan Widmann and Will Hix told the jury in summations Wednesday that Gallegos committed a serious act of violence that easily could have taken Hoffman’s life, they asked jurors to give Gallegos a 10-year sentence so if the jury decided it should be probated, she would face the maximum probationary term.
“I would like to thank the jury for their time and for sending a strong message that violence is not the way that we settle disputes between neighbors here in our community,” Widmann said. “I sincerely hope that this defendant takes the generous opportunity for probation that the jury has given her seriously.”
The jury deliberated Tuesday for about two hours before rejecting Gallegos’ self-defense claims and convicting her in the April 2, 2020, incident in which she shot her next-door neighbor, April Hoffman, after Hoffman swung an impact wrench at her that Gallegos said she thought could have been a gun.
Neither side presented punishment phase evidence Tuesday afternoon, except to agree that Gallegos has no criminal record and is eligible for probation.
The 40-year-old mother of three, who testified Tuesday she had grown increasingly fearful of Hoffman, also faces from two to 20 years in prison.
The jury of eight women and four men sent out three notes after they had been deliberating about 45 minutes. Jurors wondered in the first note if Gallegos could be “non-guilty on the means of self-defense.” The second note, sent at the same time, asked Judge Thomas West what happens if they could not reach a decision.
West responded that he could not answer their inquiries. By the time a courtroom deputy delivered his response, the jury sent another note requesting to view videos from surveillance cameras from Hoffman’s and Gallegos’ North 20th Street homes.
By the time courtroom officials sent the three videos and a laptop on which to view them to the jury room, the panel notified the judge that it had reached a verdict.
While the attorneys acknowledged that Hoffman might not be the most desirable neighbor, Hix and Widmann told jurors in summations that Gallegos was not justified under the law to shoot Hoffman.
The incident was captured on surveillance cameras installed by both women and was played multiple times for the jury. The footage shows Hoffman trying to attach a piece of sheet metal onto a privacy fence on the Gallegos’ property.
Gallegos and her friend, Veronica Renoboto, who was visiting that morning, can be seen coming into the back yard while Gallegos is tucking a .38-caliber revolver into her back waistband.
Gallegos grabs a mop from the porch and uses the handle to knock the sheet metal off her fence. There is a chain-link fence between the two yards, but Gallegos testified she put up the privacy fence on her side because of the increasing bitterness with Hoffman.
Hoffman is shown aggressively pushing the sheet metal toward the women before throwing it down and climbing onto the chain-link fence.
Gallegos and Renoboto both testified that Hoffman cursed them and yelled racial slurs before leaning over the fence and screaming, “This is your day, bitch.” Hofman was holding an impact wrench in her right hand that Gallegos said she thought might have been a gun.
“I didn’t know what was going on,” Renoboto said. “I thought she was going to hurt us.”
Gallegos pulled the gun and aimed it at Gallegos’ head and yelled, “Get the (expletive) off my fence.” Gallegos swung the hand tool in an attempt to knock the gun from Gallegos’ hand and Gallegos fired, striking Hoffman in the neck just below her right ear.
Gallegos, who remains free on bond, testified Tuesday that she starting having trouble with Hoffman shortly after she, her husband and three children bought the home in 2019. They no longer live there.
Gallegos said Hoffman put up seven upside-down crosses near their driveway – one for each member of her family - and hung trinkets she considered “voodoo dolls” in the trees near their fence line. Hoffman threatened to put a curse on her family, which she said she took seriously because of her faith. She said Hoffman told her the crosses were there to mark “potion jars” and said the voodoo dolls were there for her family.
Hoffman testified Monday and denied that the images Gallegos thought were symbols of black magic had anything to do with voodoo and denied that she threatened to put a curse on her family. She explained the crosses where there to mark her plants and that the items hanging from the trees were there to scare the birds away from her garden.
Hoffman said she wanted to put up the sheet metal to provide shade for her squash plants. However, Gallegos said she wanted to block the view of the surveillance cameras that Gallegos had installed on a back yard storage shed.
Gallegos told the jury that Hoffman started her lawnmower at 6:30 a.m. and pushed it to the fence to disturb her family and blared hard rock music from outside speakers at all hours of the night.
Gallegos said she called Waco police several times about Hoffman’s disturbances. She testified she brought the pistol into the back yard to scare Hoffman, who previously had threatened Gallegos’ husband with a hammer.
“I never understood why this lady hated us so much,” Gallegos said. “It was a dangerous thing.”
Under cross-examination from Hix, Gallegos acknowledged that she had called Waco police before and agreed that might have been a more appropriate response than shooting Hoffman. He said on the occasion when Hoffman threatened her husband with a hammer and called Gallegos out, she retreated and did not respond to her challenge.
“You would agree with me that was an appropriate reaction to the situation,” Hix said “So when you pulled that trigger, you had decided in your mind at that time that you were OK with killing her.”
“No sir,” Gallegos said.
In closing statements, Reaves argued that the video can’t be judged accurately when watched frame-by-frame from the sterile environment of the courtroom. He said the jury must put themselves in Gallegos’ position, saying she had grown fearful of Hoffman over the past year and that in the split second of the incident, she was afraid the impact wrench in Hoffman’s hand might be a gun.
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