Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

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.”

Published in Features

On this week's wetter-than-usual weekly Independent comics page: Red Meat wants meatloaf to get in the mood; Jen Sorenson eavesdrops on some thankful women; The K Chronicles talks race and crime; and This Modern World is appalled about Hillary's pneumonia.

Published in Comics

Famed novelist Sidney Sheldon was a fervent supporter of the Palm Springs Library. Sheldon and his wife, Alexandra, even donated a bighorn statue to the library, which is on display by the entrance to the building on Sunrise Way.

I once interviewed Sheldon, who died in 2007, at the library, and he passionately talked about the importance of reading: “The kids of today must read books, because some of them will be politicians of tomorrow, and they will be making decisions that influence all of us!”

Sheldon is gone now, but his books are still there on the shelves. The library reportedly has 172,000 volumes, and is the leading library in the valley by its numbers. However, in recent months, a series of incidents at the library, at Sunrise and Baristo Road, has been troubling.

On Aug. 7, according to Palm Springs Police records, Garrett Kevin Jennings, 54, allegedly stole a bike from the rack at the library entrance—in broad daylight! The library was still open, with patrons passing by, as he cut the lock off with a bolt-cutter and rode away on the stolen bike.

“I saw him as he threw the lock and removed the bike from the rack,” said Esteban Gallegos, a library security guard. “I took a picture of the suspect while he was pedaling from the library entrance through the parking lot.”

Gallegos reported the crime to the police and submitted the suspect’s picture. A detective recognized the perpetrator: Jennings had a criminal history.

On Aug. 13, Jennings was arrested at noon on Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs. He was riding a different bike, but still had a bolt-cutter on him, according to police records. He was booked on suspicion of committing a theft, possession of burglary tools and violation of probation.

According to Gallegos, who’s been a guard at the Palm Springs Library since June 2006, the number of incidents at the library has skyrocketed in the past year.

“Yes, it’s a fact. I’ve been doing more reports than ever before, and I’ve got a big file to prove it,” he said.

His account is confirmed by Merrit Chassie, a 20-year veteran of the Palm Springs Police Department. “We've got a lot going on there at the library park, and we’re often called in, sometimes by Esteban,” Chassie said.

Another alarming library incident, this time involving Gallegos as a victim, happened on Aug. 19. Police Sgt. Harvey Reed said the suspect was 19-year-old Derrell Celestine of Palm Springs, who was later arrested for grand theft and violation of probation.

Gallegos described what took place.

“The suspect was permanently banned from the library for stealing DVDs. He was trespassing, so I took my phone to take a pic of him as proof to the police,” Gallegos said. “I was adjusting the camera when he ran fast toward me. He pushed me, poked me in my left eye and took my phone. For a moment, I couldn’t see, but I ran after him. He escaped with my phone.”

The stolen phone was never found. Gallegos said he’s glad his eye is OK now, and that Celestine was captured by the police.

Gallegos also mentioned finding small, empty bags at times on library shelves, and on one occasion, there was a fist fight at the library door.

Shortly after the bike and phone incidents, I personally witnessed a raucous scene at the library entrance: An elderly man was pushed to the ground by someone. Within minutes, two Palm Springs police cruisers with four deputies showed up. The deputies drove onto the park grass in a search for a possible suspect wearing a red shirt.

These days, an armed guard has occasionally been seen inside the library. I tried to talk to him. Once he learned I was a reporter, he declined to speak to me, saying that he could get fired if he did so.

I also sat down with Jeannie Kays, the library director. While she was happy to talk about more cheerful subjects, she declined to discuss the increase in problems at the library.

I wonder what Sidney Sheldon would say about that.

Published in Local Issues

It’s been a rough summer for Palm Springs band Forfeit Your Skies.

The five-piece band—consisting of Justin Lopez (vocals), Garrett Piens (guitar/vocals), Alex Sanchez (guitar), Eli Hernandez (bass) and Cody Piens (drums)—were shocked to learn on July 2 that their Ramon Road practice space, a former Yamaha motorcycle shop, had been burglarized.

About $4,000 worth of equipment was stolen—and it couldn’t have come at a worse time.

The Piens’ sister, Niccole Holly, was killed in a car accident on June 16 near Twentynine Palms. Amelia Miller, a U.S. Marine stationed in Twentynine Palms, reportedly was driving recklessly and crashed into Holly head-on. Miller also died in the collision.

The members of the group, who describe their sound as “electrocore,” came together a year and a half ago. While the band calls the desert home, they’ve experienced most of their success outside of the desert: After playing local house shows and gigs in their practice space, they eventually started playing at the legendary Chain Reaction in Anaheim, and the Whisky a Go-Go on the Hollywood strip. They also won a battle of the bands, which the members laugh about, given they won it without Sanchez, who had injured his arm at work.

The band has gone through a series of lineup changes, and have been tweaking their sound. They recently added Lopez on vocals and were getting ready to record a new album. However, the theft of their equipment has obviously set them back.

“We got a phone call from our mom, and she said she was at the bank near the practice space; she was crying and said that someone broke into the shop and took all of our stuff,” said Cody Piens. “When we got there, everything was gone except part of the drums. Just in musical equipment alone, they stole about $4,000. They stole a lot more stuff that isn’t included in the list, including our dirt bikes, which are about $6,000. They even took 100 shirts we were going to take to get printed with our band logo.”

“They even stole our recycling,” added Garrett Piens. 

In a bizarre twist, the burglars left something behind—a pair of bolt-cutters, which the Palm Springs Police Department took as evidence.

At this point, the band is unable to perform live, since they are without amplifiers and a PA system. At this time, the band lacks the funds to purchase new equipment, and the insurance on the building, owned by the Piens’ grandfather, does not cover the theft of the band’s personal property.

“They said because it wasn’t our grandfather’s stuff, they won’t cover it,” said Cody Piens. “At this point, the police said we’re probably not going to get anything back. The police also said they weren’t going to check out any of the pawn shops. They said we can search Craigslist, but then again, if we find it, we can’t really prove that it’s ours.”

While the band members are trying to stay optimistic, they can’t help but feel frustrated and angry.

“Honestly, it just hurts,” said Cody Piens. “We’re young, and we were kids when we first started playing music. It took us years to save up to get our equipment. They stole our tools which we use to turn our passion into music. It hurts a lot when they take something from us, and we can’t easily replace it at all. It’s not like we all have extremely well-paying jobs to where we could buy new equipment so easily.”

The band is hoping to collect cash donations or equipment donations.

“Anything that could help would be much appreciated,” said Cody Piens. “They’d be our biggest fans if they could help us out. We really need them during this time for us right now.”

If anyone would like to donate to the band, they can do so at the band’s PayPal account, registered under This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

A list of the band’s equipment that was stolen:

  • Two Crate half-stack amplifiers with amp heads
  • Ampeg Classic bass cabinet
  • Crate bass head
  • Two Cerwin Vega PA loudspeakers
  • Behringer PA head
  • Sennheiser wireless guitar system
  • Yamaha mixer MG 4-16.
  • Ibanez Gio electric guitar (white)
  • Ibanez Gio bass guitar (white)
  • Crate bass guitar
  • PDP Z5 rack drum-tom
  • PDP cymbal stand
  • Pearl drum-tom mount
  • Sabian B8 thin crash cymbal
  • Pearl heavy-duty snare drum stand