York City teen guilty of murdering innocent bystander

Liz Evans Scolforo
York Dispatch

Jurors have convicted a York City juvenile for fatally — and mistakenly — shooting a woman outside a corner store as she was walking home from buying groceries.

Leandro Pilier, now 17, was found guilty of third-degree murder the morning of Thursday, Sept. 13, according to Kyle King, spokesman for the York County District Attorney's Office.

Jurors acquitted the teen of first-degree murder, court records state.

A makeshift memorial for Elizabeth Grisel Vega-Tirado, 48, stands at the corner of Belvidere Avenue and West Princess Street Wednesday, June 28, 2017. She died Tuesday after she was shot outside a store on the street where she lived. Bill Kalina photo

Pilier was 16 years old when he killed Elizabeth Vega-Tirado, 48, who lived just a few feet from where she was shot. She was the mother of four sons.

York City Police have said she was an innocent bystander who fell victim to street violence.

The shooting happened at the corner of West Princess Street and South Belvidere Avenue just before 3:45 p.m. June 27, 2017, as Vega-Tirado was walking out of Bev's Grocery, police have said.

Officers found her lying in the street with a gunshot wound to the head, police said.

Sentencing for Pilier, of South Belvidere Avenue, is set for Oct. 23, according to court records.

Leandro Pilier

Surveillance video from Bev's showed Vega-Tirado walking out of the store and trying to cross the street when a southbound vehicle cut her off and turned east on West Princess Street, police have said.

Fired at car: Pilier pulled a handgun and fired at the moving car, chief deputy prosecutor Seth Bortner told jurors during his closing argument on Wednesday, Sept. 12.

Bortner argued to jurors that Pilier is guilty of Vega-Tirado's murder whether he fired the shot or whether someone else did.

That's because under the legal theory of accomplice liability, accomplices are equally guilty of crimes they had a part in. His comment was in response to speculation a second person also fired at the car.

 A makeshift memorial lies in the foreground while Black Ministers Association of York and York City pastors join together with community members to pray to end gun violence at the intersection of West Princess Street and Belvidere Avenue in York City, Monday, July 3, 2017. The memorial is a tribute to York City resident Elizabeth Vega-Tirado, 48, who was was shot at the intersection on June 27 and later died. Vega-Tirado was not the intended target. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Bortner also argued that Pilier is guilty of Vega-Tirado's murder even though he intended to shoot one of the men in the car — 19-year-old Anu-Malik Johnson — under the legal theory of transferred intent.

"If you have specific intent to shoot somebody but you mess up and shoot someone else instead," your specific intent transfers to the person you mistakenly shot, the prosecutor explained to jurors.

According to Bortner, a witness testified at trial that she saw Pilier fire at the car.

Placed himself at scene: Also, the prosecutor argued, Pilier admitted being at the scene at the time of the shooting and had made statements indicating he was angry at Johnson, whom he called a "rat."

Pilier also allegedly told a fellow York County Prison inmate — a juvenile who remains charged as an adult with armed robbery — that he killed Vega-Tirado, and the inmate testified to that at trial, Bortner said.

A witness told them that after firing the gun and shooting Vega-Tirado, Pilier fled the area through a breezeway, police have said.

A makeshift memorial for Elizabeth Grisel Vega-Tirado bears a photo at the corner of South Belvidere Avenue and West Princess Street Wednesday, June 28, 2017. She died Tuesday after she was shot outside a store on the street where she lived. Bill Kalina photo

Hard-working mom: Vega-Tirado moved to York from New York City about 15 years ago because it was quiet, Nilda Garcia previously told The York Dispatch.

"She had no enemies — none," Garcia said. "She was a very friendly person."

Garcia's nephew was married to Vega-Tirado.

"She was an angel," Garcia said. "You rarely saw her angry or with a mean ... expression. She was always smiling, no matter what."

Vega-Tirado worked third shift at a factory while raising her boys by herself, according to Garcia.

— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at levans@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.