2021 shooting cases at Hadley Walmart resolved

By SCOTT MERZBACH

Staff Writer

Published: 01-02-2023 11:28 AM

NORTHAMPTON — A final defendant in the 2021 shooting inside the Walmart in Hadley will serve a year in the house of correction, followed by a year on probation, after entering a guilty plea in Hampshire Superior Court this month, according to the Northwestern district attorney’s office.

The decision by Juan Hernandez, 20, of New York, to plead guilty on Dec. 12 to charges of unlawful possession of a firearm and unlawful possession of ammunition, and the sentencing by Judge Richard Carey, brings to a resolution the Aug. 22, 2021 incident in which he was one of two teenagers badly injured in the store’s men’s bathroom.

Previously Wilmer Alvarez-Vargas, 27, of Chicopee, who fired the handgun, was sentenced by Carey to serve four years in state prison after pleading guilty on Sept. 23 to two counts of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon causing serious bodily injury. Alvarez-Vargas also pleaded guilty to unlawful possession of a firearm, unlawful possession of a loaded firearm and unlawful possession of ammunition, for which he received concurrent sentences in the house of correction.

That sentence was jointly recommended by Northwestern Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Suhl and defense attorney Nikolas Andreopoulos of Springfield.

During the incident, Hernandez was shot in the face, while Jeruan Matos Colon, 21, of Springfield, was shot in the chest. Days later, authorities brought the gun and drug charges against them while they were still recovering in the hospital from life-threatening injuries.

The Hernandez sentence, too, was jointly recommended by Northwestern Assistant District Attorney Andrew Covington and defense attorney Colin Keefe of Greenfield.

Meanwhile, Matos Colon was sentenced to two years of probation on charges of possession of heroin and cocaine after he pleaded guilty to charges of possession of heroin and cocaine on Aug. 30. Carey adopted that sentence jointly recommended by Covington and defense attorney David Mintz of Northampton.

“We feel the dispositions in all three cases were in the best interest of justice,” Suhl said in a statement. “All three individuals involved in this incident made some terrible and highly risky decisions, for which they’ve now been held accountable.”

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The shooting happened around 10 p.m. on a Sunday, while the store at Mountain Farms Mall was still open.

“Fortunately, this incident did not result in any innocent bystanders being hurt, which, given the location of the shooting, is remarkable,” Suhl added.

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