Testimony: Interfaith Shooting Left Victim Paralyzed
WILKES-BARRE — The man shot in the head over a drug dispute at the Interfaith Heights apartments testified Wednesday that attempted murder suspect Wandalee Balcacer ordered the hit — and that she held her ex-girlfriend’s head to force her to watch her friend get shot.
Izhar “Izzy” Ramos-Ramirez testified he and his friend Sherry “Chyna” Rivera were being followed over a drug debt to Balcacer, 26, of Wilkes-Barre, when they decided to visit someone at the Interfaith Heights apartments on April 4, 2015. Once there, a group of people surrounded them and Balcacer began questioning Rivera, her ex-girlfriend, about $4,000 worth of stolen drugs.
When Rivera said she didn’t have the money, Balcacer told the group of about a half-dozen people to throw both victims to the ground and to “shoot those mother (expletives),” Ramos-Ramirez said.
“Wandalee held Chyna’s head while they shot me so she could watch me get shot,” Ramos-Ramirez said. “After that I heard two more gunshots and I just went all white. ... I don’t remember anything else except waking up in the hospital.”
Ramos-Ramirez, appearing confident on the stand, didn’t hesitate to identify Balcacer’s co-defendant, Tony “Hazard” Edwards, 29, of Philadelphia, as the gunman. While he was wearing a bandana over his face, Edwards’ eyes and a teardrop tattoo stood out, he said.
“I’ll never forget that,” Ramos-Ramirez said.
He was shot once in the back of the head in what prosecutors have characterized as an execution-style attempted murder, while Rivera was shot in the head and upper back. The shooting forced Ramos-Ramirez to undergo several surgeries and left him using a walker.
For Rivera, however, the day of the shooting was the last time she walked.
Speaking in a soft voice from her wheelchair, Rivera testified Wednesday that she had known Balcacer for about a year and dated her for a few weeks before she was shot. She described Balcacer as a jealous person who in a fit of jealousy burned Rivera’s clothes, an allegation Balcacer denied.
In response, Rivera said that she “took all her drugs” — Balcacer’s source of income, and that Balcacer began texting her that she was “going to get you.” Rivera, concerned about the threats, began “dodging” Balcacer, she said.
The last thing she remembers from the day of the shooting was being at her mother’s house and leaving with Ramos-Ramirez to get some food, she said. The next thing she remembers, she was in a hospital with a gunshot to the head, she said.
She hasn’t been able to walk, shower or dress herself since, she said.
During cross-examination by Balcacer’s attorney, John McMahon of Norristown, Rivera said she could not recall selling drugs with Balcacer, an admitted drug dealer, and maintained that she threw out the drugs she took.
McMahon, however, confronted her with a series of text messages between her and Balcacer in which they said they still had feelings for each other. In one exchange, Rivera wrote that she had “works too” — their code work for selling drugs, according to the exchange.
Asked whether Rivera knew Balcacer was concerned about retribution from an Allentown drug dealer over money still owed for the missing drugs, Rivera said she also could not recall.
“She probably was scared but I don’t remember her telling me that,” Rivera said.
A witness to the shooting testified Tuesday that Balcacer came to her apartment to smoke marijuana the day of the shooting and that the confrontation took place when Rivera and Ramos-Ramirez arrived at the building as well. After Balcacer began asking for her drugs back, a masked man confronted the witness, ordering her out of the hallway moments before three gunshots rang out.
Testimony is continuing.