As shots rang out in a South Bethlehem parking lot early Sunday, Yolanda Morales put herself between one of two gunmen and his apparent intended target, her boyfriend Angel Figueroa.
So Rene Figueroa, who is not related to Angel, shot Morales once in the chest before firing at Angel Figueroa, according to Bethlehem Police.
On Friday, as he lay in the intensive care unit of St. Luke’s University Hospital in Fountain Hill, Rene Figueroa was arraigned on a charge of criminal homicide in Morales’ death.
Rene Figueroa, 32, of 936 W. Gordon St., Allentown, also faces numerous other felony counts – including receiving stolen property – stemming from the bloody gun battle that took place along E. Third Street last weekend.
The gun Rene Figueroa allegedly used to kill Morales had been stolen from the Jones Gun Shop at 247 N. Ninth St., Allentown, police said.
Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli, who held a news conference Friday to announce arrests in the SouthSide shootings, said he has not decided if he will pursue the death penalty in this case.
Also arraigned while lying in the hospital’s intensive care unit was Javier Rivera-Alvarado, 38, of 782 Mohawk St., Allentown. Police say Rivera-Alvarado also fired bullets that wounded Angel Figueroa’s brother, Orialis; his nephew, Luis Rivera, and Morales.
Rene Figueroa is charged with one count of criminal homicide, two counts of attempted criminal homicide, two counts of aggravated assault, two counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, one count of carrying a firearm without a license, one count of receiving stolen property and six counts of criminal conspiracy.
Javier Rivera-Alvarado is charged with three counts of attempted criminal homicide, three counts of aggravated assault, one count of carrying a firearm without a license and seven counts of criminal conspiracy.
Lehigh County District Judge Michael Pochron of Salisbury Township visited the hospital to preside over the arraignments. Both suspects will remain in the hospital under police or Lehigh County Sheriff guard until they can be released from hospital care, Morganelli said.
The two suspects were put in the hospital intensive care unit by Orialis Figueroa who, Morganelli said, may have saved several lives.
According to the arrest affidavits, Orialis Figueroa hit Rivera-Alvarado in the head with a baseball bat and took his gun away. He then used that gun to shoot Rene Figueroa who, after shooting Morales and Angel Figueroa, started firing at him, the warrants say.
Orialis Figueroa accomplished all of this even after Rivera-Alvarado had allegedly fired several bullets into his legs.
It was an argument between Orialis Figueroa and another man inside the Puerto Rican Beneficial Society moments earlier that erupted into the chaotic and deadly gunfight that left one young woman dead and five men hospitalized, according to the arrest affidavits.
The argument was with a man who was with a group hanging out with Rivera-Alvarado, though the affidavit does not make clear whether that was Rene Figueroa or someone else.
But, the warrants say, the man with whom Orialis Figueroa was arguing made a simple and direct threat during the confrontation: “Te voy a disparar,” which means, “I am going to shoot you.”
Orialis Figueroa told police he believed the threat.
According to the affidavits:
- After the argument, Orialis Figueroa walked out of the club and waited by the front door for his girlfriend to walk out.
- He then realized that the club would soon close and a group, including the man who threatened him, would be walking out together. He then went to his girlfriend’s car to retrieve a baseball bat for protection.
- As he walked back toward the club, he was confronted by Rivera-Alvarado, who pointed a gun at his head and said: “What’s up now mother (expletive)? Put your (expletive) down.
- He then shot Orialis Figueroa several times in the legs.
- Alvarado-Rivera then turned his attention to Angel Figueroa and Morales, firing one shot that apparently hit the young woman, though not fatally. Then he fired a shot that hit Luis Rivera in the knee.
- It was at this point that Orialis Figueroa said he approached Alvarado-Rivera from behind and hit him with the baseball bat and then took his gun, which he later used to shoot Rene Figueroa.
“We believe his actions were justified,” Morganelli said. “He was not only defending himself, but defending others.
“Some people may question the fact that Orialis Figueroa went to go get a baseball bat, but a baseball bat isn’t a gun.”