MANCHESTER, NH – Accused killer Isaiah Rivera-Perez will be freed from jail, pending trial, if he can find $10,000 cash to post for bail after a Superior Court judge ruled last week that the state did not show he fired his gun out of revenge and not to protect himself or his family.
Isaiah Rivera-Perez, 24, is charged with second-degree murder and reckless conduct in the killing of Jaden Connor, 17, on July 14, 2020, outside Rivera-Perez’ then home at 276 Central St. Rivera-Perez, who police said sold marijuana out of his home, was bleeding from a head wound when he told investigators that night he was the victim of a home invasion and had fired two shots at two fleeing armed men because they were on his property and he could “stand his ground.”
Connor died in the street, about 150 feet away from Rivera-Perez’s home, from a bullet wound to his left upper torso, according to an autopsy performed by Associate Medical Examiner Christine James.
Judge N. William Delker, presiding in Hillsborough County Superior Court Northern District, issued an order on March 26, 2021, in which he said the state did not show “through clear and convincing evidence, that the defendant did not face an imminent, deadly threat from his assailants even as they ran from the house. In other words, the Court is not convinced that ‘the proof is evident or the presumption great’ that a jury will convict the defendant of Second Degree Murder.”
Delker, in his 16-page order, summarized what happened that night.
About 11 p.m., a man Rivera-Perez knew by the nickname “OTB” came to his home to buy marijuana. The two chatted while finalizing the sale and OTB asked to use his bathroom.
Rivera-Perez went to his game room to wait for OTB so they could finish the transaction when he heard the side door to his house open.
Three masked men, all armed with guns, entered the home and attacked Rivera-Perez, pistol-whipping him at least 20 times. The men told him not to look at them as they kept hitting him in the face. Rivera-Perez fought back and broke the handle off one man’s revolver.
At some point, the men left through the front door. Rivera-Perez grabbed his gun off his desk and chased after them. He tried to fire his gun in his home, but was unable to, because the gun was not cocked and/or because the safety was on.
He started shooting from the threshold as the men ran out the door. He said they were at his fence, about three feet in front of his porch, when he fired.
As the men fled, they dropped a bag of marijuana near the fence and Rivera-Perez walked over to get it. He told police he heard two gunshots coming from the direction the men fled and fired his remaining four rounds in their direction.
He didn’t see if he hit any of the men. He estimated about 20 seconds had passed between when he fired his first two shots from his porch and when he heard return fire.
Officer Alexander April testified to video surveillance footage recovered from the area. The video depicted two people running outside the Rivera-Perez’s house. Connor ran up a sidewalk and in between two cars before he stumbled and fell into the street. The other man continued out of the frame but returned to Connor with his arm held out as if pointing a gun in the direction of Rivera-Perez. The man bent down to pick up something which police surmised was a firearm because no gun was found by Connor’s body, even though witnesses said all the intruders at the defendant’s house had firearms.
April testified that about five seconds had passed from the time the men ran out of the defendant’s home to when Connor collapsed in the street.
Rivera-Perez went back into his house, hid the bag of marijuana, put down his gun and called 911. When police arrived, he was sitting on the sidewalk, bloodied and with visible injuries to his head and face. He told police what happened and said he fired the shots. Several times, he told officers he had a splitting headache from the attack and asked for medical treatment.
Detective April, at a bail hearing, agreed that the attack on Rivera-Perez in his own home while his wife and children were present was “brutal” and “savage.”
Rivera-Perez subsequently moved out of Manchester to an undisclosed location in Massachusetts because he was in fear of the men who attacked him.
Welker said in his order that Rivera-Perez, charged with a crime punishable by a sentence of up to life in prison, can be held without bail if the state can show that “the proof is evident or the presumption great’ that the defendant will be convicted.”
He said Rivera-Perez has asserted various defenses including self-defense.
“At this juncture, there is no question that the defendant caused Connor’s death,” Welker wrote. “There is some significant question in the Court’s view about whether the State can establish the mens rea [ criminal intent] of the second-degree murder charge, i.e., whether the defendant caused Connor’s death recklessly and with an extreme indifference to the value of human life.”
The issue for the court, he said, is whether the state can disprove the defendant “reasonably believed” that his assailants were about to use unlawful, deadly force against him or another person.
In three police interviews, Rivera-Perez maintained he was reacting to an immediate, deadly threat and out of a desire to protect himself and his family. The judge cited some of Rivera-Perez’ statements to police:
“[A]ll I could think of was my kids, first—cause I thought they were about to run upstairs,” he told police. He said he shot to get them away from his house.
He repeatedly pointed to the brutal assault he suffered. “This person ran into my crib, sir, violated me and my family…Sir, he put a gun to my face.”
“I felt like they were still a threat because they were still in the area, so I shot, yes, I shot because they were still in the area, [to] defend my family.”
At least once, Rivera-Perez said he wanted revenge, suggesting his response to the intruders was not motivated by a desire to protect himself or his family but an “affirmative, aggressive stance…”
The judge, citing case law, said “the right of self-defense does not justify an act of retaliation or revenge. The self-defense concept is to protect person, not pride.”
Still, Welker said “accepting that less than five seconds had passed between when the men fled the defendant’s home and when Connor collapsed –a period of time so short that the defendant hardly had time for reflective thought—the overwhelming evidence established that the defendant’s actions were not motivated by revenge. Rather, the defendant was reacting instinctively and on impulse against the men who broke into his home and attacked him.”
In a police interview, Rivera-Perez said that he thought at one point that he had been shot because his wife was screaming at him like he had.
“I had blood all over me and believed they had guns all over. I didn’t know what was going on. I was, I got hit so many times my ears were ringing. My vision’s dazed.”
He said whether it was his life or theirs, he had to make that decision. “These gentlemen violated me, stole everything from me. I could have been shot at the time and I had so much adrenaline rushing through my body I didn’t know.”
The judge said even Officer April agreed at the bail hearing that the attack on the defendant in his own home while his wife and children were present was “brutal” and “savage.”
As a result, Welker said “at this stage” he cannot conclude that retaliation was Rivera-Perez’ primary motive.
The judge also said that Rivera-Perez stressed his fear of the assailants who he was familiar with and knew were gang-related. He told police that OTB is “known for taking, for hitting licks on people all the time, and there’s a lot of people that want his head…and that’s why I don’t want to be mean to say names for me to…give any type of information on his side because I know the type of people he fucks with.”)
Welker said it is clear from the police interviews that his fear of retaliation by gang members – particularly if he misidentifies one of the men who attacked him, thereby blaming another, unrelated gang member– prevented him from providing the names of his assailants to officers.
“The defendant’s fear of future retaliation continues and is still so great that he has left his home to live out-of-state,” Welker wrote.
Should Rivera-Perez post bail, he is to have no contact with the victim’s family, live at a “sealed address provided to the court,” abide by a 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew and be subject to 24/7 GPS monitoring through National Pretrial Services and shall be responsible for the cost of the monitoring services.
The next court hearing is Dec. 9, 2021. Jury selection is slated for Jan. 24, 2022.