Freddie Alec Thomas will stand trial on a charge of first-degree murder for the Sept. 11, 2015, shooting death of Jeremy Alan Saldana outside a Great Bend home.
Thomas appeared in Barton County District Court on Thursday for a preliminary hearing on the charge. Magistrate Judge Don Alvord ruled that Barton County Attorney Douglas Matthews presented sufficient evidence for Thomas to be bound over for arraignment. Defense attorney Donald Anderson Jr. waived the reading of the charge and entered a plea of not guilty.
The shooting occurred outside the home of John and Marissa Reynolds at 2402 Williams St., ending a confrontation between Thomas and Saldana.
Saldana, who was 39 and considered a resident of Texas, was living with the family. According to John Reynolds, Saldana was his wife’s father-in-law and he’d been living with them for five years. Although not a true relative, he was considered a member of the family.
Saldana had dated Marissa Reynolds’ mother, Sherry Murro, in the past, but now Murro was dating Thomas, a correctional officer at Ellsworth Correctional Facility.
On Sept. 11, 2015, Thomas and Murro came to Great Bend to spend time with John and Marissa Reynolds and the couple’s children, Murro’s grandchildren. Saldana was not there. Murro testified she didn’t know he lived there.
After the group shared a meal at The Great Wall restaurant, they returned to the house. According to John Reynolds’s testimony, his wife started receiving texts from Saldana and she suggested Thomas and Murro should leave before he returned. They packed up their cooler and headed for their vehicle. But soon there were shouts of “He’s coming!” and “He’s here.”
Thomas met Saldana in the yard.
“He’d put on a bullet-proof vest,” John Reynolds testified.
He and others testified Thomas was already wearing a holster containing a 9 mm semiautomatic Ruger handgun.
Reynolds said he and his wife watched from inside their front door. “There was a little pushing and shoving – hitting,” he said. Saldana was unarmed, and Thomas pushed him away, took a step back, drew his weapon and fired three shots.
Mason Paden, a patrol officer at the Great Bend Police Department, testified that he was one of the initial officers to responded after Marissa Reynolds called 911. Saldana on the ground and Thomas standing in the driveway. The gun was on the back of a car trunk.
The officer asked who shot Saldana and Thomas responded, “Yes, I did, I shot him,” Paden testified. “He placed his hands behind his back.”
Medical responders arrived but were unsuccessful in saving Saldana. An autopsy would later show he died of gunshot wounds.
Thomas’s ballistic vest with his Kansas Department of Corrections shield was in the front yard next to the porch.
Another officer Paden, Detective Sgt. David Paden of the Barton County Sheriff’s Office, testified that he drove Thomas to the sheriff’s office and interviewed him at length after advising Thomas of his rights.
Thomas told him he’d never met Saldana but had seen a photo of him once. When he heard that Saldana was in Brit Spaugh Park and was headed toward the house, he put on his vest. He told Paden he’d heard Saldana was known to carry weapons and could be violent.
Murro said she’d dated Saldana for about a year in 2014 and it had ended amicably enough. But he reacted to her dating Thomas, who is black.
“Mr. Saldana called my cellphone and said I was a dirty n---- lover and if he ever caught Freddie on a dark street he would come after him,” she testified. The second time he made a statement of that nature, she told Thomas.
Thomas told David Paden he is used to that sort of talk and tries to ignore it. That’s why he didn’t leave when Saldana approached, he told the detective sergeant. He was trying to get along with the all-white family. “He knows there’s racial conflict. He wanted to give people a different impression.”
But the meeting became physical when he confronted Saldana. He pushed him back but Saldana came at him again. Thomas said he drew his gun and it went off accidentally. However, Saldana was still coming at him so he fired two more shots.
GBPD’s Detective Heather Smith said Saldana was carrying a cell phone, wallet, folded pocket knife and a bottle of Southern Comfort in his pockets, among other items. He had been carrying a plastic foam cup from Kwik Shop.