A 33-year-old man accused of gunning down a tow truck driver who was preparing to take away his vehicle near downtown Riverside pleaded not guilty Friday to murder.
Javier Nieto Martinez was arrested in October for the alleged slaying of 27-year-old Jesus Eligio Martinez Acosta of Colton.
Martinez was arraigned before Riverside County Superior Court Judge Eric Keen, who scheduled a felony settlement conference for Jan. 24 at the Riverside Hall of Justice.
The defendant is being held on $1 million bail at the Robert Presley Jail in Riverside.
According to Riverside police Officer Ryan Railsback, shortly after 1 p.m. on Oct. 7, Acosta was contacted by Martinez, who wanted his vehicle taken from the 3700 block of Bandini Avenue to another location.
Railsback said that in the process of placing the defendant’s car on the flatbed truck, Martinez became uncooperative and “engaged the victim in an altercation” for unspecified reasons. The police spokesman alleged that during the ensuing tussle, Martinez pulled a handgun and shot Acosta.
Witnesses called 911, and Martinez ran away from the location.
Patrol officers converged on the scene moments later and found the tow truck driver mortally wounded. Riverside Fire Department paramedics attempted life-saving measures, but Acota was pronounced dead on arrival at Riverside Community Hospital.
Railsback said officers, with the aid of K9 units, began scouring the area, locating Martinez less than 20 minutes later in the area of Brentwood Avenue and Maplewood Place, roughly a half-mile from where the shooting occurred. He was taken into custody without a struggle.
According to court records, Martinez has prior convictions for assault resulting in great bodily injury, spousal abuse and felony vandalism.