Jury selection began Tuesday morning in Barton County District Court for the trial of Freddie Alec Thomas, nearly seven years after the fatal shooting of Jeremy Alan Saldana outside a Great Bend residence. The trial is scheduled to last for two weeks.
Thomas, a former Ellsworth Correctional Facility employee, was charged with first-degree murder after shooting the unarmed man outside the home of Jason and Marissa Reynolds at 2402 Williams St. on Sept. 11, 2015. At his preliminary hearing, Thomas’s attorney filed a motion to dismiss the case on a claim of self-defense, which District Judge Ron Svaty granted after a hearing in June of 2016. The Kansas Court of Appeals later reversed that decision and ordered the case to go to trial.
Saldana had dated Marissa Reynolds’ mother, Sherry Murro, in the past, but at that time Murro was dating Thomas.
According to testimony from the preliminary hearing, Thomas and Murro came to Great Bend to spend time with John and Marissa Reynolds. They did not know that Saldana had also been living at the Reynolds’ residence for two years.
Saldana was not there, but according to Jason Reynolds’s testimony, his wife started receiving texts from Saldana after dinner 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,” Jason Reynolds testified. Thomas was already wearing a holster containing a 9 mm Ruger he regularly carried.
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.
Thomas did not resist when an officer arrived. The gun was on the back of a car trunk and he placed his hands behind his back. Medical responders arrived but were unsuccessful in saving Saldana, who died of gunshot wounds.
Witnesses offered different accounts about what was said and who acted first.
The appellate justices concluded that if Thomas was the initial aggressor, as alleged by the state, he could not claim self-defense.
The higher court ordered the case back to the Barton County court to reevaluate its decision to grant Thomas immunity from prosecution under the state’s self-defense laws. In a unanimous decision written by Justice Dan Biles, the court said the facts the district court judge relied on did not necessarily mean Thomas acted in self-defense. The court said there were disputes about what happened during the conflict that needed to be resolved before the immunity decision could be made.
This story has been updated on June 15 to correct the name of Jason Reynolds.