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October 20, 2014

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Hookah bar shooting suspect appears in court

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Carlos Orellana

Witnesses remembered a scene of violence and chaos today during a preliminary hearing for Carlos Orellana, a man charged with murder in the death of 21-year-old Brandon Gahagan.

Gahagan was shot and killed during a fight in the parking lot of the Olive Mediterranean Grill and Hookah Bar near Sunset Road and Annie Oakley Drive about midnight on Jan. 31.

Ernesto Martinez, 20, was also shot in the left arm during the fight and was treated at University Medical Center. A third man, 26-year-old Michael Opiola, was taken to Sunrise Hospital for injuries related to the fight.

Orellana, who sat with his head down and rarely made eye contact with anyone during the six-hour hearing, is accused of murder, attempted murder and battery with a deadly weapon. He is being held without bail at the North Las Vegas Detention Center.

Las Vegas Justice of the Peace Tony Abbatangelo decided to send the case to District Court for trial and set an arraignment for Orellana at 1:30 p.m. on March 9.

Crystal Arguelles, 18, testified that when she arrived at the restaurant Jan. 31 with a friend, she saw Gahagan and Opiola fighting in the parking lot. The fight began to calm down, she said, when gunshots rang out.

A few moments later, Arguelles said, she saw Orellana stand over Gahagan and shoot him. He then kicked Gahagan once after shooting him, Arguelles said.

Timothy Avril, a doorman at the restaurant, testified that he saw Opiola, Gahagan and two other individuals fighting in the parking lot.

Avril said that he saw Orellana run into the parking lot and fire warning shots, causing most of the group to scatter.

But Gahagan remained on top of Opiola and was punching him, Avril said. Orellana then shot Gahagan in the chest, Avril said.

Opiola testified that he, Orellana, and friend Jerrid Hamilton went to the restaurant on Jan. 31 after watching the Ultimate Fighting Championship at a nearby sports bar.

Opiola was seeking employment as a bouncer at the Olive Mediterranean Grill and said he was hired that night. As he and his friends were getting ready to leave, Opiola said, they saw a fight break out inside the restaurant.

Opiola grabbed Gahagan, he said, and pulled him outside, at which point he was attacked by two other individuals. He heard four to five gunshots during the fight, he said, but he couldn't recall who fired because he was disoriented.

Opiola said he was hit with a beer bottle in the head, which required 11 stitches, and was also kicked and stomped on.

He testified that if Orellana hadn't used his gun, he could have died.

"I feared for my life," Opiola said. "These guys weren't letting up on me."

Jeff O’Brien can be reached at 990-8957 or [email protected].

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