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No charges in deadly shooting deemed “justifiable;” El Paso mom thinks evidence shows intent

EL PASO, Texas (KVIA) -- Nearly two years after her 23-year-old son was shot and killed and no one was arrested, a mom is insisting to ABC-7 that there is more to this investigation than what witnesses told El Paso police.

It has taken almost a year for ABC-7 to navigate through the conflicting stories, that all begin on Nov. 5, 2021.

That evening, police officers were called to a house on Vere Leasure Drive, on El Paso's eastside.

Someone had been shot.

Later that night, police confirmed Aram Sida, 23, was killed.

At the time, ABC-7 reported that police announced that Sida's death was "justifiable" and there would be no charges filed against the resident of the home and shooter, Hunter Joseph.

The revelation that there would be no arrest stunned Sida's mother, Veronica Martinez.

"He had barely turned 23," said Martinez. "He used to write songs. He said one day he was going to be an artist and make a lot of albums and become a star, and- and the way he was taken away from me, it's like, it's not fair."

Martinez reached out to ABC-7 in Aug. 2022 to talk about the investigation into her son's death.

She said she first got a phone call from her own father, telling her he was hearing from police that something happened to Sida. Shortly after that call, detectives arrived at her house.

"He said, 'We have some bad news to give you,' and I was like, 'What happened?'" Martinez recalled. "He's like, 'Your son went into a house and he got shot.'"

It was a few days after the deadly shooting when police issued a news release stating Joseph acted in self-defense, and they would not be pressing charges against Joseph. The police said Sida was the aggressor in the confrontation that resulted in his death.

Police interviewed the two people who were inside the house when Sida was shot. One was Joseph and the other was Divine Tarin. According to the police report, on Nov. 5, 2021, Tarin and Joseph were getting intimate when they heard shouting outside, and suddenly, Sida burst into the house.

Tarin told police, Sida was yelling at her, demanding she give him back a phone he had lent her the day before. Tarin said he was also calling her names and pushing her to the ground.

Then she heard Sida say to Joseph, "You want some of this," before she heard gunshots.

The autopsy shows Sida was shot through the back of the neck.

Tarin said that Sida told her he was dying as she tried to stop the bleeding, but then she left to find Hunter, who was outside. They didn't go back into the house.

By the time police arrived, Sida had died. Police found a pocket knife on the scene and a broken door in Joseph's home. Joseph told police he didn't want to shoot Sida.

Martinez told ABC-7 she takes issue with many things in the police report, mainly, that Tarin identified herself as Joseph's girlfriend and Sida's ex-girlfriend.

"I want answers as to how my son got there," Martinez said. "They put him as a jealous person. ... No. They're together. They've been together for the longest time. You cannot tell me that."

But Martinez she didn't have much more to bolster her beliefs, other than mother's instinct. She told ABC-7, if she knew her son's relationship with a woman who witnessed his shooting would be questioned by police, she would have taken more photos of them when they were together at her home -- which she said occurred in the days before his death.

Martinez didn't have evidence of their ongoing relationship until April 2023. That is when police released Sida's belongings to her -- including his cell phone.

Police told her they couldn't unlock it.

She approached ABC-7 again, saying she was able to open the phone using a combination of numbers in a notebook Sida had given her when he needed help opening a bank account.

And what she found made her mind reel.

"Once I opened up the phone, there was a message from this guy that shot him," she said. "And he said, 'I'm sorry. But if anybody reads this message, get in touch with me. Because this, this didn't need to happen.'"

That message was sent to Sida via Instagram direct message the day after the deadly shooting.

Martinez also found something else.

"On his phone, he made the 911 call," Martinez said, pausing while holding back tears. "He wanted somebody to help him."

ABC-7 saw the call log, which indicated the 911 call lasted 40 seconds.

There was an ongoing text thread between Sida and Tarin's mother, who he labeled "Mother In Law" in his phone. She was texting him asking if Tarin was ok, then if he was okay, hours after he had died.

There was also a long text thread between and Sida and Tarin.

The day before and the day of the shooting, they were asking what the other was doing, and sending each other pictures. She sent him one where her eyes were covered with hearts; he sent her a photo of where he was -- at an urgent care center for treatment for a hernia.

The texts turned angry, as he asked her to stop lying about being with Joseph, which she denied. He then asked her to give him his phone back, which he had lent her the day before. The phone log shows Sida Facetimed Tarin ten minutes before he was shot.

Martinez told ABC-7 she felt the phone offered proof that her son's death wasn't justifiable.

"Didn't they go through his phone knowing that there were pictures from her, there was messages from her, and the last 911 call came from his phone?" she asked, adding, "I would want to hear that recording, if it's available."

Shortly after the interview in April with Martinez, ABC-7 submitted an open records request to the El Paso Police Department, asking for the audio and transcripts of phone calls made to 911 regarding the shooting.

This response came from the city attorney's office at the end of May: "We have made a good faith determination the information you requested deals with the detection, investigation, or prosecution of crime and the release of the remaining records would interfere with ... an open case." (emphasis added)

ABC-7 wanted clarification on why police still considered the case open well over a year and a half after they had determined no charges would be filed.

ABC-7 twice emailed the El Paso Police Department's public information office requesting an interview about this case, and also asking if the department was aware of the additional information Martinez found on Sida's phone.

The police did not respond to ABC-7, but a detective reached out to Martinez, asking her to show him Sida's phone.

She met with ABC-7 on July 14, the day after that meeting. Martinez looked frustrated.

Martinez said she explained what she had found to the detective as he looked at the phone, and that he took her sworn statement. 

She said she then asked him a question.

"I asked him, 'What's going to happen after this?' and he said, 'I don't know,'" Martinez said, adding she was taken aback by the response. 

"I said, 'Can I have a copy of what I signed, the statement that you did?' And then he said, 'Nope, because it's under investigation.' And I said, 'What do you mean, it's under investigation? I was told the case was closed,'" Martinez said, adding the detective stressed to her that the case was being investigated by the District Attorney's office. 

This last answer, Martinez said, frustrated her. For months, she said, the police had urged her to call the District Attorney's office for updates on the case. So, she would call the D.A. and leave messages asking for information. Then in March of this year, 16 months after her son's death, someone in the office told her they never received the case from police.

ABC-7 confirmed with that District Attorney Bill Hicks, but then circled back to the district attorney's office to see if anything changed. Officials in the office confirmed that the EPPD submitted additional evidence, but  added, "After reviewing, it does not warrant a reversal or re-investigation of the closed case."

For Martinez, she wishes the answers from law enforcement had changed, but thinks what would bring change is "For (Tarin and Joseph) to say the truth ... Because (police) believed every word that they say, but what about my son?"

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Stephanie Valle

Stephanie Valle co-anchors ABC-7 at 5, 6 and 10 weeknights.


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