Wesley Cruz found guilty of murdering man outside Harrisonburg hookah lounge

Photo of Wesley Cruz shared by police after his arrest in June 2018
Photo of Wesley Cruz shared by police after his arrest in June 2018(WHSV)
Published: Sep. 30, 2019 at 5:31 PM EDT
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UPDATE (Oct. 2, 2019):

A Harrisonburg man has been convicted of first-degree murder for shooting 20-year-old Miguel Meza Ramirez to death outside a hookah lounge in 2017.

After just a few hours of deliberation, a jury found Wesley Cruz guilty of first-degree murder and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony.

During witness testimonies for Cruz's sentence hearing, Cruz took to the stand to apologize to the family of Meza.

Cruz said he apologizes for the harm he has caused the family and thinks about it every night.

Commonwealth Attorney then questioned Cruz on where he received the gun he used to shoot Meza.

Cruz said he did not know who gave the gun, used to Meza, to him and that he obtained it on the way to the hookah lounge.

The Jury gave their sentence recommendation set for a total of 48 years. Cruz's formal sentencing is set for Jan. 10, 2020.

On the final day of his trial, Cruz's defense called witnesses to the stand, who were all Cruz's friends who had been out with him drinking late in the night of Oct. 7 and early in the morning of Oct. 8, 2017.

Those witnesses testified that Cruz had been drinking heavily and threw up before the shooting occurred at the Vibe Bistro and Hookah Lounge.

Defense attorneys used that testimony to argue that the shooting could not have been pre-meditated because Cruz was heavily drunk. They also argued that he feared for his life after an argument with Ramirez over a girl in which Ramirez told him "you don't want this smoke," which was interpreted as a threat to shoot Cruz.

However, the prosecution said the fact that Cruz was able to retrieve a firearm, turn the safety off, fatally shoot Ramirez, dispose of the weapon four miles from the scene, and drive away showed that there was clear pre-meditation.

Cruz kept driving, and wasn't found for months until June of 2018, when U.S. Marshals arrested him in New York thanks to a tip about his location.

During the 3-day trial, a Henrico County deputy also testified that the gun used in the shooting was registered in his name and had been taken from a vehicle in Augusta County about two months before the murder. It was found in December of 2017 off of Cecil Wampler Rd. in Rockingham County.

First-degree murder is punishable by up to life in prison.


UPDATE (Oct. 1, 2019)

The trial for Wesley Cruz, the 29-year-old man accused of

outside of a hookah lounge, continued on Tuesday.

The prosecution continued questioning witnesses on the stand. Witnesses included Miguel Meza Ramierez's girlfriend, first responders at the scene, and U.S. Marshals who arrested Cruz near Orange County, New York, almost nine months after the incident.

The Marshals said they found Cruz in a hotel room on June 26, 2018, with a Pennsylvania state license that did not identify Cruz as himself but under another name.

Officer Eric Hummel, with the Harrisonburg Police Department, was the officer who found the weapon Cruz allegedly used to kill Meza. He said the gun was found four miles away from the scene in December of 2017 off of Cecil Wampler Rd. in Rockingham County.

Another witness was a deputy with the Henrico County Sheriff's Office who testified the gun Cruz allegedly used was registered under his name. He said the gun went missing around August of 2017 but he never knew Cruz or gave permission for him to use it. The deputy said he would often leave the gun at his girlfriend's home or car in Augusta County.

The prosecutor also showed the bodycam footage first responders recorded when they arrived at the scene of the hookah lounge and began performing C.P.R on Meza. EMT's said the treatment they gave Meza had no effect in reviving him from his injury.

Security footage from outside the hookah lounge was also shown to the jury, showing Meza walking out with Cruz behind him, who began reaching for a gun.

The trial will continue with the defense presenting evidence on Wednesday at 9 a.m.


The trial for Wesley Cruz, the 29-year-old man accused of

outside of a hookah lounge, is underway.

After jury selection on Monday, the prosecution and defense gave opening arguments.

Commonwealth's attorney Marsha Garst said after an argument over a woman, Cruz followed Miguel Meza Ramirez outside the Vibe Bistro and Hookah Lounge in October 2017 where he shot Ramirez in the chest and killed him. Garst said there was no physical altercation before the shooting.

The defense argued Cruz was heavily drinking before the entire situation took place. His attorney said his actions were justified because he felt threatened after the argument. Ramirez told Cruz, "you don't want this smoke," which Cruz took as a threat, according to his attorney.

After the shooting, it was months before police found him in Orange County, New York. In June of 2018, U.S. Marshals arrested him in Orange County after someone tipped off the Harrisonburg Police Department about his whereabouts.

Harrisonburg Police arrested two people — Keane Latrae Alestock and Alexicia Tamaine Calloway — as accessories to the crime in the months before Cruz's arrest.

The trial will continue on Tuesday at 9 a.m.