A Galveston County jury will soon weigh whose version of events to believe about the circumstances leading to the stabbing death of a man during a house party in 2016.
Closing arguments in the case are set for Friday morning, after which it will be turned over to a jury, Chief Assistant District Attorney Kayla Allen said.
Richard Lee Garcia, 29, of Galveston, is charged with murder and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon in connection with the death of Cole Hardeman, 20, and severe wounding of another man, court records show. Prosecutors allege Garcia pulled out a knife and stabbed people after being asked to leave the house party.
But Garcia, in interviews with investigators after the party, argues he was attacked and only pulled out his knife in self-defense.
“I’m curious as to why I was arrested and charged with murder and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon,” Garcia told investigators during a jail interview in November 2016. “People were jumping on us. We were being jumped.”
Garcia went to a bar on Oct. 23, 2016, with his brother and girlfriend before they eventually left and went to a house party, Garcia told investigators in a video played for the jury Thursday.
Garcia told police that the three of them spent about two or three hours at the party without incident before Garcia’s brother approached him and told him it was time to leave. But the brothers hadn’t gotten far when Garcia returned to ask his girlfriend to come with them and to pick up a jacket he left behind, Garcia said.
Before he made it back into the home, however, a crowd of people approached and assaulted Garcia, before he eventually pulled out a knife and swung it back and forth to defend himself, he said.
Garcia alleges he was knocked to the ground during the altercation and, after pulling out his pocket knife while lying on the ground, began swinging his arms from side to side but was not instigating the fight, according to a probable cause affidavit.
Officers who responded reported finding a knife in a grassy area off the sidewalk near the house and another knife in a driveway, according to the affidavit.
But investigators and prosecutors allege Garcia’s version of events doesn’t match up with what other witnesses told them.
Garcia, for instance, only sustained a slight bruise on his left eye, an injury on the inside of his lip, a scrape to his left knee, a laceration on his right palm and a small wound on his right hand, testified Marcus Morrison of the Galveston Police Department.
And Garcia and his brother were both asked to leave the party by the homeowners, and Garcia later instigated the fight by pulling out his knife and stabbing at people, investigators assert.
During the fight, Hardeman sustained a cut to the abdomen and a puncture wound in his chest, which hit his heart, ultimately causing his death, according to the autopsy report.
Hardeman and a second man, Angel Chavez, were taken to John Sealy Hospital, where Hardeman was pronounced dead. Chavez underwent surgery for a stab wound to the abdomen, according to the affidavit.