Kevin Fitzgerald
Julio Delgado, Rosa Delgado, Beatriz Morales and Guillermo Delgado await the start of the preliminary hearing regarding charges against Carlos Ulloa. Credit: Kevin Fitzgerald

Riverside County Deputy District Attorney Jason Stone, in a calm, subdued tone, asked Riverside County Sheriff’s Deputy Shane Day: “Were you working on Sept. 16, 2017?”

“Yes,” Day replied.

Deputy Day was the first witness to testify during the long-awaited preliminary hearing at Indio’s Larson Justice Center on Jan. 7. At issue: The attempted murder of Guillermo Delgado of Indio, allegedly at the hands of Thousand Palms resident Carlos Ulloa.

“In your capacity, were you dispatched to … Thousand Palms?” Stone asked.

“Yes,” Day answered.

“And what were you dispatched there to investigate?”

“I believe the call as it came out was that shots were fired, and there were victims down at a large gathering. That’s pretty much the info we had going into it.”

Delgado, one of three victims that night, had suffered eight bullet wounds while attending a birthday party for his friend and co-worker, Sandro Rios. Rios was also wounded, with the happy occasion ending abruptly when the gunshots erupted.

Delgado later talked to the Independent about what happened.

“As it got late, I was at our table with Sandro, and he said to me, ‘Hey! Let’s go get some shots,’” Delgado recalled. “So we got up and started walking to the bar. Next, I felt someone push me real hard from behind. I could tell he was drunk when he pushed me, because he used his whole body (weight), and then he stumbled to where he was right in front of me.

“I think that Sandro already knew he had a gun, because he immediately tried to stop him (Ulloa). But (Ulloa) pulled out his gun, and Sandro was trying to push it away from me. Then I hit him (Ulloa); because he was so drunk, I thought maybe I could knock him out and get the gun away from him, but all of a sudden, he shot a bullet, and Sandro went limping away. I froze then, and he just unloaded on me. From there, I don’t remember anything.

“I didn’t know this guy. That night was the first time I’d seen him. I didn’t know his name.”

Details of what exactly transpired, moment by moment, vary in the testimony of several of the witnesses. However, there is agreement that Ulloa shot the unarmed Delgado multiple times that night, and then fled the scene, leaving Delgado at death’s door.

Ulloa—who remains free on $1 million bail—along with his family and witnesses, maintain that it was a case of self-defense, as some of them testified during the hearing. Delgado and his support group see it as a blatant case of an attempt at cold-blooded murder.

I asked Delgado what else he remembered from that night.

“When he shot me,” Delgado said softly, “I was trying to catch my breath, because I couldn’t breathe. I felt like someone had hit me and knocked all the air out of me. (A bullet) hit me in my chest, so I think my lung collapsed. From there, I just woke up at the hospital, and they told me that I had coded two times—I had died twice, and they had to bring me back to life.”

How long had he been unconscious? “I woke up in the (Desert Regional Medical Center) three days later,” Delgado said.

Delgado stayed in the hospital for more than a month before returning home, still in a lot of physical discomfort.

“That was the worst, man,” Delgado said. “When I got back to the house after the hospital, I couldn’t get up from my bed. They brought me back in a wheelchair, and I had to use that for another month. But after a while, I started using a walker and then a cane. Every time I had a doctor’s appointment, the pain was so bad that I would start to cry. I was taking medication, but that didn’t help at all. … The worst pain has been in my leg, because one of the bullets damaged a main nerve. Sometimes I got real hard spasms in my leg. To start walking by myself again took almost six months.”

Along with the considerable physical discomfort, Delgado experienced financial and emotional hardships as well—as do many crime victims and their relatives who find themselves entrapped, through no fault of their own, in the not-always-so-understanding world of Riverside County’s justice apparatus. Luckily for Delgado, his family and his longtime girlfriend have been there for him.

“My brother Julio, my mom, my dad, my girlfriend—they’ve helped me a lot,” Delgado said. “My girl had two jobs to keep us going. Yes, I was getting disability, but it wasn’t as much as I got in my (work) checks. So we were struggling to keep up with payments. Even now, we’re still behind and trying to catch up.

“Before this all happened,” Delgado continued, “I had a good route (with Dewey Pest Control), and I was getting paid good money because it was a big route, and I could take care of it. Now I’ve been back (on the job) for about two months, and I barely make it check by check.”

In the 16 months that have elapsed since the shooting, Delgado and his family have become frustrated at how slowly the legal proceedings have progressed. An initial manhunt (which culminated in a voluntary surrender by the suspect), legal maneuvering by the defense and court-date postponements have all contributed to that frustration and a feeling of personal insecurity that have haunted Delgado, his family and friends. But now that the preliminary hearing ended with a confirmed felony charge of attempted murder against Ulloa, Delgado is finding reason to feel more hopeful.

“I’m OK with the fact that they’re charging (Ulloa) with attempted murder,” Delgado stated. “Honestly, I don’t care what they do with him. It’s just a good thing that I’m still alive.

“I don’t know how court works. I don’t know how the system works. I don’t know what’s going to happen with the jury. I mean, he was trying to kill me. He shot me eight times. You don’t shoot a person eight times just to try to defend yourself. I mean, I was lying on the floor after the first shot.”

Delgado sighed. “I just want justice. That’s all that I want.”

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Kevin Fitzgerald

Kevin Fitzgerald is the staff writer for the Coachella Valley Independent. He started as a freelance writer for the Independent in June 2013, after he and his wife Linda moved from Los Angeles to Palm...