The murder trial of Benjamin Vargas, who stabbed and killed Vincent Velasquez during a fight in Isla Vista last year, continued last Wednesday with testimony from Vargas’s girlfriend Karen Medina, who witnessed the killing firsthand.
Vargas’s defense attorney Ron Bamieh called Medina to the stand and asked her about the events that lead up to the May 15 brawl. The story she told, contrary to past testimony, depicted Velasquez showing the first signs of aggression. The 21-year-old, who said she was “very nervous” on the stand and was initially too quiet for some of the jurors to hear, relayed her perspective on how the fight transpired.
Medina said she was walking down Abrego Street “arm-in-arm” with Vargas when they encountered Velasquez. Before they reached him, she said, they heard him say to a nearby woman in a mid-drift, “What is this, belly dancing?” As they reached Velasquez, Medina stated, she heard him say “What’s up, homie?” to Vargas. “And what did [Vargas] say in response to that?” asked Bamieh. “He just said ‘what’s up’ back. He wasn’t aggressive or anything,” replied Medina, who referred to Vargas as Benny.
After her boyfriend responded, Medina said, she heard Velasquez ask “Well, what’s up then?” Soon thereafter, Velasquez delivered a swift punch to the right side of her Vargas’s face “just above his eyebrow,” Medina said. “His body froze, [he] fell straight back, and his head hit the ground.” Medina concluded her testimony describing how fearful and hysterical she became during the course of the altercation.
Medina was initially charged as an accessory to murder in connection with the stabbing, but Judge George Eskin threw out the accusations last month, ruling they’re isn’t enough evidence to prosecute her. Bamieh has argued that Vargas stabbed Velasquez in self-defense.
The trial is ongoing and continues with witness testimony Monday.