Juan Gonzalez

Name:  Juan Antonio Gonzalez

Victim: Officer Jonathan Molina

Age at time of murder: 17

Crime location: El Paso

Crime date:  September 25, 2012 (Officer Molina succumbed to his injuries 10 days later on October 5)

Murder method: Beating

Convictions: Murder (the conviction has been reversed and the case remanded)

Sentence: 50 years

Incarceration status: Incarcerated at the William G. McConnell Unit (ML) and eligible for parole on October 5, 2037

Patrolman Jonathan Keith Molina | El Paso Police Department, Texas


Officer Molina allegedly found Gonzalez’s friend Juan Gomez scratching his car with a metal object. When Officer Molina tried to question Gomez, Gonzales allegedly sucker punched him. Officer Molina fell and hit his head on the concrete drive way and became unconscious. Gonzales continued to beat him, according to testimony. Officer Molina suffered facial and skull fractures and internal head injuries and died 10 days later. Gonzales was convicted of murder and sentenced to 50 years in prison but the conviction was reversed. The case was remanded for a new trial.


Officer Down Memorial Page

Patrolman Jonathan Molina succumbed to injuries sustained 10 days earlier when he was beaten by a juvenile on Trowbridge Drive, near Route 54.

Patrolman Molina was off duty when he observed three juveniles vandalize his car. He confronted the three and identified himself as a police officer. As he spoke to them one of the juveniles punched him, knocking him to the ground. The teen continued to to beat him even after knocking him unconscious. Patrolman Molina suffered a fractured skull, internal head injuries, and facial fractures.

All three juveniles fled the scene but were apprehended. The subject who had beaten him was originally charged with assaulting a public servant but was later charged with capital murder of a peace officer following Patrolman Molina’s death. He was subsequently sentenced to 50 years in prison.

Patrolman Molina was a U.S. Marine Corps combat veteran in both Iraq and Afghanistan. He had served with the El Paso Police Department for four years. He is survived by his mother, brother, and sister.

Man sentenced to 50 years for murdering El Paso police officer gets new trial

EL PASO, Texas (KFOX14/CBS4) — The El Paso man convicted of murdering an off-duty El Paso police officer in 2012.

The Texas Eighth District Court of Appeals justices ruled Wednesday Juan Antonio Gonzalez will be retried.

Gonzalez was found guilty of the murder of El Paso police officer Jonathan Molina in 2014.

Gonzalez was sentenced to 50 years in prison.

Gonzalez was originally facing a capital murder charge but an El Paso jury believed there were mitigating circumstances surrounding the beating death of Molina.

Texas Eighth District Court of Appeals justices ruled Wednesday that 346th District Court Judge Angie Barill’s allowing evidence of possible drug use by Gonzalez hours before the incident was an “erroneous admission of evidence in the guilt innocence phase.”

Barill then reversed Gonzalez conviction and remanded the case for a new trial.

The incident happened in September 2012 when Molina confronted Gonzalez’s friend Juan Gomez about him allegedly scratching his car with a piece of metal.

During the confrontation between Molina and Gonzalez’s friends, Gonzalez was accused of grabbing Molina from behind the knees to “take him down.”

According to testimony, Molina fell and hit the back of his head on a concrete driveway, knocking him unconscious. Gonzalez was accused of punching Molina in the face two to three times.

After the confrontation. Gonzalez and his friends left the scene, according to a police press release.

During Gonzalez’s trial, the prosecution showed the jury Facebook messages Gonzalez sent his friend Alan Medrano, saying Gonzalez knew he had killed Molina after the group left Molina lying unconscious.

Gonzalez’s attorney claimed Gonzalez was defending himself because Molina became aggressive with the group.

Gonzalez was 17 years old at the time of the incident.

District Attorney Jaime Esparza is planning to challenge the new ruling.

“We believe the trial judge made the correct ruling on the disputed issue and are disappointed with the opinion of the 8th Court. We intend to appeal their opinion to the Court of Criminal Appeals,” said Esparza.

Appeals court orders new trial in officer’s death

Aaron MartinezEl Paso Times

January 27, 2017

The murder conviction of a man accused of killing an El Paso police officer during an argument in 2012 was reversed and a new trial ordered by an appeals court this week.

Juan Antonio “Johnny” Gonzalez, 21, was found guilty by a jury on a lesser charge of murder on July 28, 2014, in the death of El Paso Police Department Officer Jonathan Molina. He was originally facing a capital murder charge.

Two days later, the same jury sentenced him to 50 years in prison.

Gonzalez, who was 17 years old at the time, was accused of “sucker punching” and pulling Molina’s legs out from under him as the officer questioned Gonzalez’s friend, Juan Antonio Gomez, about him allegedly scratching Molina’s car with a metal object on Sept. 25, 2012, in the 4100 block of Trowbridge Drive, according to court documents and testimony in the 2014 trial.

Molina then fell and hit the back of his head on a concrete driveway. He was knocked unconscious and then Gonzalez punched Molina at least two more times, according to testimony.

Molina, who was off-duty at the time and not in his police uniform, suffered a fractured skull, internal head injuries and facial fractures. He died nine days after the incident.

Texas Eighth District Court of Appeals justices ruled Wednesday that 346th District Court Judge Angie Barill’s allowing evidence of possible drug use by Gonzalez hours before the incident was an “erroneous admission of evidence in the guilt innocence phase.”

The justices then reversed Gonzalez’s conviction and remanded the case for a new trial.

El Paso County District Attorney’s Office officials said they are planning to appeal the justices’ ruling to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the highest appeals court in the state.

“We believe the trial judge made the correct ruling on the disputed issue and are disappointed with the opinion of the 8th Court,” El Paso County District Attorney’s Office officials said in a statement. “We intend to appeal their opinion to the Court of Criminal Appeals.”

Gonzalez’s defense lawyer, Ruben Morales, could not immediately be reached for comment.

During the 2014 trial, state prosecutors entered as evidence several Facebook messages sent between Gonzalez and his girlfriend that allegedly alluded to drug use.

Defense lawyers objected to the messages being entered as evidence; Barill overruled them.

According to court documents, Gonzalez sent a message to his girlfriend while he was in class at 10:32 a.m. at Sunset High School on the day of the incident.

In the message, Gonzalez allegedly said that he was “rollin at school.”

Prosecutors argued that the message showed Gonzalez had taken an Ecstasy pill.

Gonzalez’s girlfriend, who is not named in the appeal documents, then replied, “with our pills.” He responded, “no, with my extra one.”

At about 10:44 a.m., Gonzalez sent another message claiming that he was “shaking” and then “it’s starting to hit me,” documents state.

He added, “I don’t wanna roll in class” and that he trips “bad at school.” He also said that he was saving two pills that they could use later.

Six minutes later, Gonzalez stated, “Oh, God, babe stay with me. I’m starting to trip bad.”

Gonzalez then messaged his girlfriend at 10:58 a.m., stating, “I only freak out at school other than that I’m fine.”

He then messaged his girlfriend later that evening that he was going to “flush our pills,” documents state.

Gonzalez got out of school at about 3:45 p.m. The argument with Molina occurred several hours after he texted that he took the pill. Several witnesses testified in the trial to different times they believe the fight occurred. Documents state the incident occurred sometime between 4:30 and 6 p.m.

Gonzalez and his friends walked away from the scene after witnesses tried to help Molina, documents state.

After the argument with the Molina, Gonzalez messaged his girlfriend, saying that he believed he might go to jail.

He told her that he and “two friends walked home and this guy starting talking (expletive) to us, and at first I told him to back off and he pushed me so I punched him, then tackled him, then punched him again.” He added that he saw Molina twitching and bleeding.

Gonzalez later messaged Alan Medrano, who was one of Gonzalez’s friends involved in the incident, that he killed Molina.

“I hope u didn’t get caught I killed the guy, he went into compulsions and died,” Gonzalez wrote to Medrano, who was already in police custody.

After hearing news media outlets report that Molina still was alive, he messaged Medrano again, saying, “Haha jk Weii I seen that (expletive) on the news” and “Dude turn on the news dude there’s all this (expletive) going on.”

Medrano was arrested for evading arrest and was sentenced to 14 months of probation and 80 hours of community service.

Morales objected to the messages being entered as evidence during the 2014 trial, claiming that they lacked relevance to the case and any relevance they might have was outweighed by the possibility of creating prejudice against Gonzalez among the jurors.

An appeals brief filed by Morales argued over 15 issues, but the two main ones considered by the appeals court were the relevance and impact of the messages.

In Gonzalez’s appeals brief, Morales argued that “the evidence was not tied in to the incident in any way. The State claimed that it was relevant to Appellant’s state of mind but no evidence was presented how the use of an unknown type of ecstasy might affect a person’s state of mind. 8 hours after the fact.”

He added, “Admission of this evidence was harmful as it severely tainted Appellant’s character in an improper manner.”

State appeals lawyers countered that the messages were relevant since Gonzalez was claiming he acted in self-defense and that Molina was the aggressor.

“Evidence of a defendant’s intoxication prior to the murder was relevant to the issue of self-defense, and the jury was entitled to hear about it in order to realistically evaluate the evidence before it,” the state argued in its appeal brief. “Furthermore: the nature of the drug-use evidence admitted consisted of nothing more than Gonzalez’s ingestion of a single ecstasy pill, the remainder of which he saved for later, which in comparison to the seriousness of the crime with which he was charged (murder), was rather innocuous (and thus, unlikely in itself to sway the jury from a state of non-persuasion to one of persuasion on the issue of guilt).”

The brief adds that “the State only briefly delved into the issue through a single witness, and neither revisited it during the rest of the guilt-innocence phase nor mentioned it during its closing argument. Thus, the probative value of this evidence was not substantially outweighed by a danger of unfair prejudice, and its admission into evidence was harmless.”

Texas Eighth District Court of Appeals Chief Justice Ann Crawford McClure wrote in the opinion released by the court that the messages could have had an impact on the jury concerning Gonzalez’s character.

“His case rose or fell on his credibility. Suggesting that he was high on drugs would certainly influence his credibility,” McClure states in the justices’ opinion. “But painting Appellant (Gonzalez) as high on drugs that day goes directly to the matter of who the jury was to believe.”

The opinion continues, “It may be on re-trial that the State can show that use of ecstasy six hours before the alleged crime affected Appellant’s mood, perception, memory, or reactions. The State did not do so. We sustain Issues Thirteen and Fourteen.”

The district attorney’s office now has 30 days to summit a petition for discretionary review with the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, according to the Texas Attorney General’s Office.

The filing of the petition does not automatically mean the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals will even hear the case.