During Week 2 of testimony in the murder and attempted murder trial of the man accused in last April’s mass shooting in the Gaslamp Quarter, several survivors took the stand.
Travis Sarreshteh, 34, used a ghost gun to shoot five people, killing hotel valet Justice Boldin, on April 22, 2021, according to investigators.
Nicole Orgera and Cheryl Kreipke were in the Gaslamp Quarter the night of the shooting, having dinner with a group of girlfriends at Rustic Root. They were heading toward the Pendry Hotel, where they were staying, when they heard a few loud bangs. Once they realized it was gunfire, the group of friends ran back toward the restaurant.
“At that point, we felt we were in danger,” Orgera testified.
NBC 7’s Dana Griffin caught up with two victims of a shooting in the Gaslamp who returned to the scene for closure.
As they ran, they came face-to-face with the gunman.
“I turned and saw a gentleman walking toward me, and I still didn’t think anything, but I saw something in his right hand, and it looked like — whatever that object was — sticking in front of his pants, and that’s when I really started to get more concerned and nervous,” Kreipke testified. “I picked up my pace, and as he was passing me, he said to me, ‘Don’t worry: I wouldn’t shoot a girl.’ ”
Video surveillance played in court showed the group of friends running as a man in dark clothes passed by.
When asked by a defense attorney if Orgera recognized the defendant, she said, “Not his face, no.”
Kreipke said the man had on a hoodie, and that it was dark so she wouldn’t be able to identify him.
Four friends from the East Coast were also visiting San Diego that night for a guy’s trip.
Shooting survivor Alex Balis testified that around 10:30 p.m., he and his friends were headed back to their hotel to get rest before an early tee time.
As they walked near the intersection of Fifth and Island Avenues, “one guy bumped my buddy on the shoulder” and said, “Get out of the way,” Balis testified.
“I’m super stoked I made it back. I wasn’t sure I was going to live,” Steven Ely told NBC 7’s Alexis Rivas.
The gunman also asked if they were laughing at him, Balis said. Moments later, he heard gunshots.
Balis was shot below the elbow. He said he didn’t realize he was hit until someone pointed it out. He was more concerned about his friend Vincent “Vinny” Gazzani, who was more seriously hurt.
Shooting survivor Jatil Kodati said he saw the shooter’s face and pointed out the defendant in court.
“He looked at me and screamed, ‘Get the f— out of the way’,” Kodati testified. “We were a little shocked, looked at each other and parted ways.”
Kodati was grazed on the arm. He said it felt like something was burning.
Kevin Kania was among the four friends but was not hit.
“He bumped into us,” Kania said. “He said something that we couldn’t quite understand.”
Kania testified that he turned around and said the shooter had a blank look on his face and started walking away, “as if nothing had happened,” Kania said.
Kania pointed out the defendant as the shooter in court.
“I still see the same look in his eyes that he had that night,” Kania said. “I’m sure that’s him.”
One witness, who the judge did not allow the media to identify, is currently in custody after violating the terms of his release from previous felony convictions.
On the day of the shooting, the witness was waiting outside Gaslamp Pizza when he heard gunshots from an area near J Street and Island Avenue. He said he noticed a man walking up Fifth Avenue who “looked out of place.” He saw the suspect pull out a pistol from his waistband and took an A-frame stance with both hands on the firearm and shot indiscriminately at the group of friends, the witness testified. He said the shooter fired five or six rounds.
The witness said he noticed the firearm’s slide rack stayed back, which indicated to the witness — who is familiar with firearms — that the shooter was out of rounds or the gun jammed.
He followed the shooter on the sidewalk up Fifth Avenue while calling 911 but was unable to get through to dispatch after three or four attempts, he testified. Then he, along with another bystander, tackled and held the suspected shooter until police arrived and arrested Sarreshteh.
Gazzani had the most severe wounds. He said he’s grateful for the two former Israeli combat medics who saved his life They’re all friends now. He also called the shooting one of the scariest moments of his life.
The trial is expected to last another week and a half.