Trial begins for 2004 shooting case

Prosecution witness Chris Altman testifies in the trial of William Riley at the Curry County Courthouse in Clovis Monday. The trial resumes today. (Staff photo: Andy DeLisle)

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer

Recounting shots that pierced the windshield of his car and shattered his passenger window, prosecution witness Chris Altman described the events that led to the end of his friend’s life.

The first-degree murder trial of William Riley began Monday afternoon in the 9th Judicial District Court. Riley, 33, is accused of killing Roshawn Pitts who was shot three times in the driveway of an apartment at 916 Axtell St. on June 25, 2004.

Altman testified there was tension between the two men because of a girl.

Altman said he and Pitts, 20, had run into Riley, also known as “Cisco,” at a daycare facility on Axtell. Pitts and Riley had begun talking and Altman followed in the car as they walked back to Riley’s house. Altman said he could see tension between them, and when they reached Riley’s driveway, Altman said they began arguing heatedly.

Altman said Pitts got into Altman’s car so they could leave. He described Riley running out of his apartment with a gun and shooting through the windows of his car.

“The first shot broke my windshield. I got out of my car and ran. I really didn’t know if I was going to be shot or not. I just heard gunshots and started running,” he testified.

The last thing he remembered as he fled from his car was Pitts trying to grasp his arm.

Altman said when he looked back and saw that Riley was gone, he returned and drove his car from the scene. He described Pitts slumped in the passenger seat, bleeding from wounds in his chest.

“I can’t believe he shot me,” Altman recalled Pitts saying to him as he sped through town trying to find the hospital.

Altman said he checked Pitts for a pulse as he drove, but said he couldn’t find it. Pitts was unconscious by the time they reached the hospital. “I thought he had passed away in the car on the way to the hospital,” he said.

Pitts died later at Plains Regional Medical Center, just five days before his 21st birthday, according to CNJ archives.

District Attorney Matt Chandler presented a gun to Altman who identified it as the .44-caliber Magnum revolver that was used in the homicide.

Under cross-examination, defense attorney Luis Juarez pressed Altman about his discharge from the military, asking why he was discharged before his enlistment was fulfilled.

Altman testified he was released from the military at the recommendation of his commander.

In response to questions from Juarez, Altman also testified he knew Pitts to be associated with a gang in California but was not aware of Pitts having any such affiliations in Clovis.

Cross-examination of Altman by defense attorney Juarez will continue today. The trial is scheduled in the courtroom through Friday.

If convicted, Riley faces life in prison.