The suspect stormed into a Southeast Austin convenience store in January 2011, his face shrouded by a black mask and hooded jacket, his actions captured on surveillance footage played Tuesday for a Travis County jury.
He pointed a handgun and shot at the clerk, who fell to the ground out of the screen, and the video, a compilation of clips police investigators combined, followed the suspect as he paced through an aisle, then jumped the counter, broke open the cash register and walked away hurriedly from the scene.
In opening statements, prosecutors said that 6-foot tall, bulky subject who appeared on camera and killed Azizali Momin was Frederick Manuel, 47, who they said wore a glove to conceal his tracks and was caught wearing the same coat in another aggravated robbery. But defense lawyers told jurors there were gaps in the story: Authorities took evidence swabs of all the items the robber touched with the hand he left uncovered — and did not find a DNA match to Manuel.
The 47-year-old is facing life in prison without parole if convicted of killing Momin.
Authorities have said he was arrested in May 2011 and charged with aggravated robbery in connection with a Jan. 16, 2011, incident at a Shell station in the 1200 block of Montopolis Drive. Officers responded to the shooting at the All Star Grocery at 4600 Teri Road, about three miles from the Shell station, four days later.
Prosecutors said Manuel demanded money from Momin, then shot him and left with cash. Momin, 41, was pronounced dead at the scene. Manuel was indicted in May 2012 on capital murder charges.
In court Tuesday, prosecutors said he made incriminating statements in a police interview and blamed the slaying on a friend, later calling him on his cell phone and telling him to get rid of the evidence.
Police got 65 tips on the case, Assistant District Attorney Jim Young said. “All the suspects were eliminated” except for Manuel, he said.
Witnesses and surveillance footage indicated Manuel wore the same distinctive blue hooded jacket with white stripes as he did in the first robbery, Young said. Investigators linked the car he drove, a late 1980s Chevrolet Caprice, to both scenes, court records said.
But one of his lawyers, Allen Williams, said there were no eyewitnesses at the All Star Grocery who could identify the actual robber, and although his client had been scared when interviewed by police, he did not incriminate himself. “These police investigators are good, they are professional and honest, but all of us make mistakes,” he said.
Manuel has a lengthy criminal record, including arrests on suspicion of armed robbery, being a felon in possession of a firearm, drug possession and family violence, the affidavit said. Public records indicate he was convicted of assault with injury in 2006.
On the stand, Ray Sepeda told jurors he did not see the face of the suspect who burst into the convenience store the day Momin was killed. He had been chatting with the clerk, as he typically did on his way to pick up his daughter, when he heard a man tell him to get on ground.
“I thought it was joke,” Sepeda testified. But he was pushed to the floor, Sepeda recalled, and then heard the gunshots.