Soldier charged with murder in shooting death at US rodeo pleads not guilty

An Army sergeant charged with murder in the fatal shooting of a man at an Austin Rodeo has pleaded “not guilty” to a reduced charge of manslaughter, which police has agreed is self-defense, court documents show.

Brittany Maynard Read more

Andrew Gray, a corporal in the army National Guard stationed in San Antonio, was arrested last September on a murder charge for the death of Anthony Badillo at the Future Texas Rodeo, a three-day event in Austin, Texas, which drew more than 15,000 people and produced $3.3m for local businesses.

The Army said last September that Gray was placed on unpaid leave.

“We acknowledge that a case involving an unlawful use of a weapon has fallen outside of our organization’s ‘normal’ response to ongoing criminal investigations,” an army spokesperson said in a statement last September. “The Texas Rangers, as the lead agency, are conducting this matter and are accountable to the Texas Department of Public Safety in this investigation.”

Ray Blackmon, an investigator with the Austin police, wrote in an affidavit in October that although Gray’s weapon was not legally used against another person, Gray was justified in using it against Badillo in self-defense.

In his affidavit, Blackmon said that Gray’s attorney, Hidalgo County defence attorney Kelly Dickey, “did discuss with [police detective Janice Stewart] that Gray will plead not guilty to the reduced charge of manslaughter and that Gray intends to invoke a ‘stand your ground’ defense”.

According to police documents, Gray and two civilian companions, Gray’s cousin and a friend of Gray’s, were riding in a 2003 Ford Expedition that was being driven by another acquaintance, Robert Sides, at the time of the shooting.

Sides and Gray’s cousin, who have since been charged with capital murder for Badillo’s death, were riding in the SUV at the time of the shooting, in which Badillo was fatally shot at close range. Gray and Sides were arrested on 5 September in connection with the shooting.

Blackmon wrote that Gray’s attorney told police that Gray did not intend to shoot Badillo but lost his balance during an intense verbal confrontation with another participant, allegedly a 20-year-old male.

Judge Val Hana of the 120th district court sentenced Gray to two years probation after a pre-trial hearing on Friday. Maynard was sentenced to two years probation. Both convictions will be served concurrently.

Maynard pleaded not guilty to a capital murder charge that prosecutors say was the motive for Badillo’s shooting. She pleaded guilty to an improper discharge of a weapon charge, according to court documents.

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