CEDAR CITY — Two men who pleaded guilty to their involvement in a drive-by shooting north of Cedar City earlier this year have each been sentenced to prison.

Gerardo Cadena, 20, and Miguel Cruz, 19, were sentenced in 5th District Court in Cedar City on Monday morning by Judge Matthew L. Bell. Although the terms of their respective sentences differed, they were both ordered to spend a minimum of three years in prison.

A .22-caliber pistol that was collected as evidence in a drive-by shooting in Iron County, Utah, Feb. 28, 2023 | File photo courtesy of Iron County Sheriff’s Office, St. George News / Cedar City News

As previously reported, a black Jeep Cherokee with six occupants was stopped by an Iron County Sheriff’s deputy on Airport Road in Cedar City on Feb. 28, following reports of a drive-by shooting a few miles away, in the area of 2525 West and Midvalley Road. It was the second such incident reported at the same location in as many weeks, with a home having been struck by multiple bullets on Feb. 12.

After finding two firearms and other evidence inside the Jeep during the traffic stop, officers placed all six of the vehicle’s occupants under arrest.

Cadena, who was identified as the driver, turned 20 in September. The other five occupants of the vehicle were identified by police as Cruz, 19, Matthew Lucero, 19, Gabriel Monzon, 19, Garrian Perkins, 18, and an unnamed male juvenile who was 17 at the time of his arrest.

As part of a plea agreement, Cadena pleaded guilty on Sept. 25 to four counts of felony discharge of a firearm, a third-degree felony.

During Monday’s sentencing hearing, Cadena apologized, saying, “I’m sorry for that. I wish it never happened.” He and his attorney had asked that the court consider a sentence of probation.

However, noting that “serious actions often result in very serious consequences,” Bell imposed a sentence of 3-5 years in Utah State Prison for each of the four counts to run concurrently.

Iron County Jail mugshot of Gerardo Cadena, Cedar City, Utah, Feb. 28, 2023 | Photo courtesy of Iron County Attorney’s Office, St. George News / Cedar City News

“Mr. Cadena, despite no criminal history, you’ve jumped into the deep end of the pool on this one,” Bell said, adding, “This is extremely dangerous behavior towards others, towards the community and innocent bystanders, not to mention the victim specifically.

“What bothers me, too, is this demonstrates a willingness to resort to violence to resolve disputes.” 

The court did not impose any fines or fees but did order Cadena to pay a share of the $1,907 in restitution owed to the victim.

How much time Cadena ultimately serves in prison, including any credit given for jail time already served, will be up to the Utah Board of Pardons, Bell added.

During Cruz’s sentencing hearing a short time later on Monday morning, Bell imposed a similar sentence of 3-5 years in prison for each of three counts of felony discharge of a firearm, a third-degree felony.

Bell also sentenced Cruz to 0-5 years in prison for two other third-degree felony charges in a separate case dating back to last December. In that case, Cruz had pleaded guilty to one count of possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute and one count of possession or use of a firearm by a restricted person.

Although Bell said the sentences within each of the two cases would be allowed to run concurrently, he ordered the separate cases to run consecutive to each other.

No fines or fees were imposed, although Cruz was also ordered to pay a share of the $1,907 in restitution.

Iron County Jail mugshot of Miguel Cruz, Cedar City, Utah, Feb. 28, 2023 | Photo courtesy of Iron County Attorney’s Office, St. George News / Cedar City News

How much time Cruz ultimately spends in prison will be up to the Board of Pardons, the court noted.

Bell pointed out Cruz’s young age and said he had “a lot of life” ahead of him.

“But early in life, you’ve chosen to be an armed drug dealer,” Bell told Cruz. “You seem to be willing to use firearms as an approach to resolving conflict. That’s unfortunate.”

Added Bell: “I’m confident you wouldn’t like it if someone engaged in that behavior in a home where maybe your mother was residing. And that would just beget more violence and more violence. That’s not acceptable, especially when it all stems from illegal activity.”

“Anyway, thankfully, no loss of life,” the judge added. “But it will result in loss of freedom. And you’re missing out on some of the best years of your life, unfortunately.”

Deputy Iron County Attorney Trajan Evans said in a written statement emailed to Cedar City News on Wednesday that the sentences should send a message that gang violence will not be tolerated in Iron County.

The violent behavior displayed by Miguel Cruz, Gerardo Cadena, and their associates that night is unacceptable,” the statement said, adding, “Thankfully, their acts remain extremely rare in Iron County. It is our goal at the Iron County Attorney’s Office for this type of gang related activity to remain uncommon by arguing for severe consequences in cases that involve guns, drugs, and other gang related activity.”

Aside from Cadena and Cruz, the other four Jeep occupants who were arrested on Feb. 28 have already had their various cases adjudicated as follows (with one facing additional charges):

Monzon pleaded guilty in May to two class B misdemeanor counts, namely minor possession or consumption of alcohol and failure to disclose identity. He was sentenced to 24 months of probation and fined $606. In June, however, Monzon was arrested again and charged with criminal trespass, a class A misdemeanor, along with one count of minor possession or consumption of alcohol. He is scheduled to be arraigned on those two new charges on Nov. 27, along with an order to show cause hearing to determine whether he violated the terms of his probation on the initial case.
Lucero pleaded guilty to a single count of minor possession or consumption of alcohol, a class B misdemeanor, and was sentenced in May to 24 months of probation and fined $553. 
All charges against Perkins were dismissed without prejudice on May 22.
The 17-year-old’s case, which involved multiple counts of discharge of a firearm, was adjudicated in juvenile court, according to the Iron County Attorney’s office.

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