Judge reviews video of nightclub shooting

HOLLIDAYSBURG – Blair County Judge Elizabeth Doyle on Monday held the first in a series of pretrial hearings stemming from the shooting death last Halloween night of Willie Solomon of Altoona at Choices Night Club, 130 Sixth Ave.

Hugo Baez, 20, of New York was arrested for the killing, and he is scheduled to be tried with Brandon A. Midder, 24, of Altoona, who was an off-duty bouncer at the club and was seen in surveillance video pulling a gun and supposedly striking Solomon when he was down after being shot.

Baez is charged with first-degree murder, while Midder is charged with aggravated assault, several firearms violations and with helping Baez attempt to flee Altoona after the killing.

The courtroom Monday afternoon included 15 family members and friends associated with the two suspects.

No members of the victim’s family were present for the two-and-a-half hour hearing, during which Doyle reviewed the various videos from the Choices security cameras.

The defense attorneys for both men are contending the testimony from the preliminary hearings does not support the charges.

Also, defense attorneys Thomas M. Dickey and David Kaltenbaugh, representing Baez, and Steven P. Passarello, representing Midder, want Doyle to order separate trials rather than having a single trial.

Blair County Deputy District Attorney Jackie Bernard explained that the prosecution’s case and much of the testimony against the two suspects stems from the videos.

For Judge Doyle to analyze the testimony and the charges, the prosecution and defense played the various videos from 11 security cameras showing frame by frame what occurred that Halloween night.

Altoona detective, Cpl. Marshall Worling, explained what the videos showed.

According to the charges, Solomon’s brother, Jacob Dormevil Jr., was walking past a table where Baez was sitting.

He said something to Baez, and it is contended the two agreed to go outside the club and fight.

Dormevil can be seen taking off his sweatshirt as he leaves the club and walks into a hallway leading to an outside parking lot.

Baez followed with Solomon right behind him.

Dormevil exited the club into the parking lot, and then appeared to be pushing the door closed on Baez, who had pulled a gun and fired it at Dormevil.

Solomon grasped at Baez, who then shot him at close range.

The tapes showed that Midder, who entered the club that night with Baez, was sitting at the bar when Baez entered hallway leading outside.

Police contend that Midder, reacting to the initial shots in the club hallway, pulled a gun, pointed it at Dormevil who was peering back into the hallway at his dying brother, and then reached down and pistol-whipped Solomon.

In the process, Midder’s gun flew out of his hand and the gun separated from the ammunition clip.

The various videos then show another man hand Midder his gun, minus the clip, and both Baez and Midder walked toward the back door of the club.

Police arrested Baez and Midder during a traffic stop in Huntingdon County.

Kaltenbaugh, in his questioning of Worling, compared video shots of the main players, attempting to clarify to the judge where each was located as events unfolded.

Passarello did the same but closely questioned Worling about his interpretation of arm movements made by Midder. Passarello strongly maintains they do not show Midder striking Solomon and noted that autopsy reports showed no evidence of Solomon having been beaten or kicked.

He also pointed out that Midder was not acting in concert with Baez, noting Midder was having a drink at the bar when Dormevil and Baez decided to go outside and fight.

Doyle wants the defense to provide her with transcripts of the separate preliminary hearings for Baez and Midder.

She will then schedule another hearing, giving the attorneys for both sides a chance to argue their various issues.

Bernard said she and Assistant District Attorney Peter Weeks believe the two should be tried together because the evidence against each is the same.

Mirror Staff Writer Phil Ray is at 946-7468.