(Photo of Torrez via HuffingtonPost)
By now, most individuals within the MMA community have heard about the story of Joe Torrez, a professional MMA fighter out of Las Cruces, New Mexico, who had a deadly altercation with four suspected gang members during an apparent home-invasion in the early hours of New Year’s Day. Mr. Torrez was unavailable to comment on the current situation, but his lawyer, CJ McElhinney, who has known Mr. Torrez for nearly 10 years, spoke with CagePotato about his client and the events that occurred last week.
The 27-year-old Torrez reportedly fought off the four attackers which resulted in the death of Sal Garces (25). Another assailant, Nathan Avalos (20), had injuries which required medical attention. The other two assailants, Raymond Garces (19) and Leonard Calivollo (22), were arrested not far from the scene of the attack. The attorney also noted that one of the intruders did have an ankle bracelet on during the attack although did not specify which one of the four was wearing it.
Torrez, who has been training for nearly 10 years out of Gracie Barra Las Cruces, woke up early Wednesday morning when four individuals attempted to break into his home where his fiance, fiance’s sister, and his 3-year-old son slept. Despite reports of Mr. Torrez having a relationship with the intruders, Mr. McElhinney denied that they’d previously known each other, and cited the age difference between Torrez and the attackers as an indication towards the lack of relationship the parties may have had. Gracie Barra was unavailable for comment at the time of publication.
The attack may have occurred as a result of an incident involving the 17-year-old sister of Torrez’s fiance at a New Year’s Eve Party. Mr. Elhinney stated that Torrez was at his home by 10 p.m. that evening with his son and fiance. His fiance’s sister, who may have had a “passing friendship” with one of the intruders, was at the party where according to Mr. McElhinney, an incident may have occurred where the intruders attempted to intoxicate and possibly sexually assault the woman, who later spent that evening with Torrez and her sister in lieu of her own home as a safety precaution.
Many reports have stated that the intruders made a threatening phone call prior to the attack. Mr. McElhinney indicated that this threat may not have been directed to Torrez, as his fiance had used Torrez’s phone to speak with one of the intruders regarding the events that transpired during the New Year’s Eve party with her sister. Later on the intruders would arrive at the mobile home of Mr. Torrez with what his attorney described as a “broken souvenir baseball bat.” Mr. McElhinney also stated that a kitchen knife from Torrez’s kitchen was used by one of the intruders during the attack, but did not specify if either was used in the death of Sal Garces.
While Torrez has had some on-and-off legal issues and run-ins with the police in the past, which include custody issues and a DUI, Mr. McElhinney stated that Torrez is “not a criminal” and has “never done time.”
New Mexico has a similar legal statute to Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law made famous by the George Zimmerman case. In New Mexico, you are not legally obligated to retreat, but also “not be trigger happy.” While self-defense laws vary from state to state, according to a New York based attorney, “several legal professionals stated that a defendant can use force to the extent where they are under threat of bodily injury, but once the threat subsides, you have to stop deadly force.”
Whether or not Torrez will be tried for his actions that evening will fall on the New Mexico prosecution who will determine whether or not the right amount of force was used. Currently there is a case in New Mexico that could serve as a precedence towards the legal ramification of Joe Torrez.
According to an update from The Huffington Post, Torrez is no longer cooperating with authorities, and McElhinney says that Torrez may still face charges related to the attack.