Man sentenced to 53 years for killing man outside a Virginia hookah lounge

Man sentenced to 53 years for killing man outside a Virginia hookah lounge
Wesley Cruz shared by police after his arrest in June 2018 (Source: WHSV)

HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - A man from Harrisonburg Virginia has been sentenced to over half a century in prison for shooting and killing a man outside a hookah lounge in 2017.

Wesley Cruz was convicted of first-degree murder in October of 2019 for a shooting in October of 2017 that killed 20-year-old Miguel Meza Ramirez.

In Rockingham Circuit Court on Jan. 10, Cruz was sentenced to 53 years in total: 45 years for the charge of first-degree murder, which will run consecutively with 3 years for possession of a weapon by a violent felon and 5 years for use of a firearm in the commission of a felony.

Cruz will also face court again later this month for hearings on probation violations.

On the final day of his trial, Cruz’s defense called witnesses to the stand, who were all Cruz’s friends who had been out with him drinking late on the night of Oct. 7 and early in the morning of Oct. 8, 2017.

Those witnesses testified that Cruz had been drinking heavily and threw up before the shooting occurred at the Vibe Bistro and Hookah Lounge.

Defense attorneys used his testimony to argue the shooting could not have been pre-meditated because Cruz was heavily drunk. They also argued that he feared for his life after an argument with Ramirez over a girl in which Ramirez told him “you don’t want this smoke,” which was interpreted as a threat to shoot Cruz.

However, the prosecution said the fact that Cruz was able to retrieve a firearm, turn the safety off, fatally shoot Ramirez, dispose of the weapon four miles from the scene, and drive away showed that there was clear pre-meditation.

Cruz kept driving and wasn’t found for months until June of 2018 when U.S. Marshals arrested him in New York thanks to a tip about his location. Marshals Cruz in a hotel room on June 26, 2018, with a Pennsylvania state license that did not identify Cruz as himself but under another name.

During the 3-day trial, a Henrico County deputy also testified that the gun used in the shooting was registered in his name and had been taken from a vehicle in Augusta County about two months before the murder. It was found in December of 2017 off of Cecil Wampler Rd. in Rockingham County.

Cruz faced up to life in prison for the charge of first-degree murder. Prosecutors had recommended a 48-year sentence.

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