The father accused of driving his 14-year-old son to a Garland gas station where police say the teenager killed three people was charged with capital murder on Thursday.
A Dallas County grand jury has voted to indict 33-year-old Richard Acosta Jr.. Texas law allows those involved in capital murder to be charged with the most serious crime even if they did not pull the trigger.
A capital murder charge has only two sentencing options: life in prison without parole or the death penalty. District Attorney John Creuzot has yet to seek the death penalty since becoming district attorney in 2019 and has not announced whether he intends to pursue the death penalty for Acosta.
Richard Acosta’s lawyer, Heath Harris, said his client had no idea his son was going into the store to shoot anyone.
Harris said Thursday he was unaware that Acosta’s case was going to the grand jury this week and said he was upset that prosecutors did not give him the opportunity to present a case to the grand jury.
“We would have liked to have had the opportunity to present to the grand jury rather than doing it through a back door,” Harris said.
Creuzot declined to comment.
Unlike a trial, those accused of crimes are not required to participate in proceedings before a grand jury. But they are allowed to testify, and Harris said Acosta would have. Harris took the unusual step of saying Thursday that he is confident Acosta will testify in his own defense, should the case go to trial.
“Absolutely, he’s going to testify,” Harris said. “He must testify because he is the only one who can say whether or not he participated in this offense insofar as [prosecutors] try to say.
Xavier Gonzalez, 14, Ivan Noyala, 16, and Rafael Garcia, 17, were killed in the shooting. A 15-year-old cook who was new to the job was also injured.
Richard Acosta was arrested days after the December 26, 2021 shooting. Police still have not found his son, Abel Acosta. A monetary reward for information leading to Abel’s arrest was increased last week to $10,000.
Garland Police aren’t sure if Abel is still in North Texas. His whereabouts have included West Texas and Mexico, police said last week. US marshals, who coordinate international and foreign arrests, have joined the investigation.
Police say Richard Acosta drove his son to and from the Texaco. They said Richard Acosta entered the store alone before his son. The boy then went alone to the front door and fired at least 20 times inside the store before fleeing in the van driven by his father, police said.
Harris said they hope Abel Acosta will come forward as they are confident he will tell authorities his father was not involved in his plan.
The Dallas Morning News does not generally name minors suspected of a crime, but makes an exception because police say they believe Abel Acosta poses a threat to public safety.
Garland Police also intend to pursue a capital murder charge against Abel Acosta, although his case would enter the juvenile justice system. A different process is provided for minors accused of crimes.
Juveniles who are at least 14 at the time of a crime could be tried in adult court, if a juvenile court judge signs off after a hearing. Prosecutors have not said whether they plan to continue Abel Acosta’s trial in adult criminal court. It is not known if Abel Acosta has a lawyer.