The man accused of fatally shooting a local high school teacher outside his North Park home last year allegedly asked during a firearms class how to kill people, a witness said in court on Wednesday.
Jesse Alvarez, 31, was back in court on Wednesday for a preliminary hearing for his alleged role in the killing of Cathedral Catholic High School (CCHS) teacher Mario Fierro. Alvarez was ordered to stand trial and will appear in court again later this month.
Murder of Mario Fierro
More on the North Park shooting of the local teacher.
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Two witnesses recounted encounters with the defendant.
Osvaldo Cruz, an investigator for the San Diego District Attorney's Office, testified that staff from the Poway Weapons & Gear Range reported the defendant asked disturbing questions during a firearms class.
Cruz testified Alvarez asked where the "best place to shoot someone to kill them" was, and proceeded to ask, "what about the back of the head?" An instructor at the range told the investigator those questions stood out to him since they teach participants how to defend themselves, not how to kill people. Alvarez took classes weeks before Fierro's slaying.
The defendant pleaded not guilty last year to first-degree murder charges in connection with Fierro's death. The victim was found shot on the morning of Feb. 1, 2021 on the 4500 block of Kansas Street. San Diego Police Department (SDPD) Officer Scott Lockwood said the shooting suspect fled the scene, leaving Fierro injured on the sidewalk.
Emergency responders tried to revive the 37-year-old teacher, but he died at the scene.
According to Deputy District Attorney Ramona McCarthy, Alvarez dressed in all black clothing the day of the shooting. She added the defendant waited outside Fierro’s home for about an hour for the victim to go outside and then shot him multiple times before running away.
Attorneys for Alvarez asked the judge to drop a special circumstance attached to Alvarez's murder charge accusing him of lying in wait , but the judge refused, saying evidence went "beyond premeditation."
Alvarez was arrested the night of the shooting in Serra Mesa after investigators reviewed footage from at least two home security cameras in the area. Police believe the violence stemmed from an argument between the defendant and victim since Fierro was engaged to Alvarez’s ex-girlfriend.
The woman also testified in court on Wednesday and told the judge that Alvarez made her fear for her safety. She testified he would not leave her alone after the two broke up and claimed the defendant tried to break into her home.
She added Alvarez even got a job at CCHS' cafeteria to be closer to the victim. Once school administration realized who he was, they asked him to leave.
The witness concluded that her relationship with Fierro was “one of the most genuine, authentic, loving relationships I’ve been in my entire life.”
During the defendant’s arraignment last year, McCarthy described Alvarez as “fixated” on Fierro’s fiancée, whom he was in a relationship with for several years before her engagement to the victim. Documents obtained by NBC 7 showed the woman had sought protection against Alvarez via a domestic violence restraining order. In it, she claimed the defendant stalked her in person, cyberstalked her and was emotionally abusive and controlling during their relationship.
Her request was ultimately denied.
Fierro’s killing devastated the CCHS community, who fondly remembered the teacher as “ young, vibrant and full of life.”
“All of us loved him. He was a fantastic teacher and a great human being," said a letter sent to parents and staff the day he was killed.
Alvarez faces a first-degree murder charge in the case. A court officer told NBC 7 an additional witness will testify Thursday morning.