Jury finds Utah man guilty of murder in 2018 restaurant shooting

Nov 10, 2023, 12:13 PM

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Jonathan Hunt was found guilty of murder in the 2018 shooting death of Noe Armijo-Luna. (Salt Lake County)

(Salt Lake County)

WEST JORDAN — A man who fired fatal shots at a West Jordan Rancherito’s five years ago was found guilty of murder on Thursday.

Jonathan Hunt, 23, was guilty of murder and felony discharge of a firearm, first-degree felonies, according to the jury. The jury declined to find he acted under imperfect self-defense, meaning they determined he did not believe he was defending himself, and he was not legally justified when he fired the shots.

On Sept. 14, 2018 about 12:30 a.m., Hunt and Jayden Olsen entered the restaurant where Noe Armijo-Luna, 20, of Midvale, and his friend were eating. Armijo-Luna and Olsen were involved in an argument over advice Armijo-Luna gave to Olsen about his ex-girlfriend and had been sending Snapchat messages; witnesses at the restaurant said there was arguing going on at the restaurant.

In the two minutes he was at the restaurant, Hunt fired a gun at Armijo-Luna twice, killing him, before leaving the restaurant with Olsen.

Throughout the trial, the judge instructed the jury not to get food at the scene of the shooting, which is about three blocks away, because they should rely only on evidence presented at trial.

Eyewitness accounts

At the trial, all three of the men who survived the interaction testified, including Hunt, along with Hunt’s girlfriend who was waiting in the car and other witnesses at the restaurant.

Brock Harrison testified that he met Armijo-Luna earlier that year and they worked together; he considered him his best friend. They were hanging out the day he was shot and killed, and Harrison was at the table with him at the Rancherito’s. He said his friend was “troubled” and had been arguing on Snapchat, and told Harrison the person he was talking to was freaking out over nothing.

Harrison said he heard someone “bust in” to the restaurant and then “before you know it both of them (Hunt and Olsen) are right here.” He said Olsen didn’t let Armijo-Luna talk much, but his friend was trying to tell Olsen he was trying to help. He said the conversation lasted less than a minute when Hunt “sucker punched” Armijo-Luna from behind.

“Noae was just confused,” Harrison said, because there was no warning, and he told Hunt, “you hit me for no reason.”

Harrison said his friend stood up and was prepared for a fistfight when Hunt pulled out a gun and fired it twice.

Olsen explained he had been with his girlfriend for about nine months when she told Armijo-Luna she was not happy, and Armijo-Luna gave him advice before the relationship ended, and he cut ties with Armijo-Luna. On Sept. 13, he saw his former friend at a coffee shop and later that day told Armijo-Luna on Snapchat not to make contact with him, he testified, but later that day, used his Snapchat location to find him at the Rancherito’s.

At the restaurant, Olsen said he was “less angry and more emotional”; he said he didn’t remember if he had told Hunt why they were at the restaurant, but if he did Olsen said he would have told Hunt it was to talk with Armijo-Luna.

“He was trying to talk to me, and then I saw the defendant strike him on the head, and then the victim turned and got up out of his chair,” Olsen said.

He said it looked like Armijo-Luna was ready to defend himself when Hunt fired the shot. Then he said Armijo-Luna dropped straight down “like someone cut the strings of a puppet,” and he ran out of the restaurant with Hunt.

Olsen, Hunt and Hunt’s girlfriend at the time all testified that they were silent on the drive to their apartments and were smoking cigarettes on a balcony when police came later that night, Olsen said.

Hunt claims self defense

Hunt’s attorney, Rudy Bautista, said his client acted in self defense. He said Hunt had never met Armijo-Luna and had no reason to plan to kill him unless he felt threatened. He said Hunt was given a gun by Olsen right before they entered the restaurant; it wasn’t his gun, and he was confused.

When officers found Hunt at the apartment complex where he was staying, Bautista said he was still in shock. He said his client was “entangled in a conflict” between Olsen, who he barely knew, and a man he didn’t know.

Hunt testified he did fire the shots, and caused Armijo-Luna’s death — but when asked why he said “I was defending myself.”

“I did not murder anybody, I shot Noe to defend my life,” he said.

He said he had known Olsen for about a week-and-a-half and he thought they were at the Rancherito’s to get more marijuana. He said it was a “hot potato moment” when Olsen handed him a gun outside the restaurant and he went to the bathroom to conceal the gun.

“I was confused and a little bit afraid because I didn’t know what I was supposed to do with that,” he said.

Hunt said he must have upset Armijo-Luna by sitting there, and he was told to mind his own business, and then shortly later the man “just snapped out of nowhere” and said “you’re dead (expletive).”

He said he saw Armijo-Luna reach for something, and “in that moment … knew he had a gun,” so he reacted immediately, and aimed a gun in his direction and fired.

Hunt denied he had previously punched Armijo-Luna and said he didn’t say a word in the restaurant, nor in the car after leaving.

“I was stressed. I was scared. I was in shock,” he said.

Deputy Salt Lake County attorney Joshua Graves said testimony that Hunt and Olsen were not talking afterward shows Hunt was guilty.

“The reason they’re not talking is because they know they’re in trouble,” he said.

Hunt is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 9, 2024.

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Jury finds Utah man guilty of murder in 2018 restaurant shooting