Prosecutors on Monday agreed to dismiss first-degree murder charges against a man who fatally shot an Army veteran after an apparent traffic dispute in east Colorado Springs.

Averting a potential life term in prison, Charles Valentino Lobato, 31, pleaded guilty to reckless manslaughter in the January 2018 shooting of Shawnee Tapia. The lesser charge normally is punished by four to eight years in prison.

The plea deal comes five months after attorneys for Lobato argued during a preliminary hearing in November that he fired in self-defense.

A surveillance video screened in court showed that Lobato and Tapia nearly collided in a parking lot outside Del Taco, 3855 Astrozon Blvd.

When Tapia, 35, an Afghanistan veteran and married father of two, continued to Astro Liquors, 3826 Astrozon Blvd., Lobato followed and pulled up behind him, police say.

Dark, grainy footage captures a brief face-to-face confrontation before Tapia staggers away and collapses.

Where Colorado Springs police saw evidence of an apparent murder, Lobato’s attorneys argued the video captured him in a fight for his life. They pointed out that a knife was found lying next to the dead man and that he was known to be armed.

The murder charge dismissal marks the second break for Lobato in his case.

At one point during the nine-month manhunt that led to his arrest at a Castle Rock motel, he fired on law enforcement officers while eluding arrest, the Costilla County Sheriff’s Office reported last year. But authorities were unable to support the allegations and no additional charges were filed against him.

Lobato is due to be sentenced June 24 by 4th Judicial District Judge Jill Brady.  

Reporter

I cover legal affairs for The Gazette, with an emphasis on the criminal courts. Tips to lance.benzel@gazette.com

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