SAN DIEGO — A biotech employee who shot a co-worker in the face at a warehouse in Carmel Mountain Ranch was sentenced Friday to life in prison.
Julio Riel Narvaez III, 56, pleaded guilty in December to attempted murder and admitted a firearm use allegation stemming from the June 20, 2017, shooting of Michael Limbag, whose cousin is married to the defendant.
Narvaez was sentenced to life with the possibility of parole on the attempted murder count and 25 years to life on the firearm allegation, an enhancement that Superior Court Judge Laura Halgren had the discretion to dismiss, but decided against doing so.
Prosecutors said Narvaez and Limbag had previously argued, but had seemingly resolved their dispute during a meeting at Phamatech Inc. on Innovation Drive the day of the shooting.
But that afternoon, further words were exchanged and the defendant retrieved a loaded .22-caliber semiautomatic firearm from his desk and went to the victim’s workstation and shot him in the face. Narvaez tried to shoot the victim twice more but the gun jammed, according to prosecutors, who said Narvaez attempted to break down a door that the victim and another employee were barricaded behind.
Other employees of the drug-testing and laboratory services business were able to subdue the defendant.
Limbag was present at the sentencing hearing but declined to make a statement. However, the judge said the victim had delivered statements to the court at a separate hearing indicating the shooting left him with a fragment of a bullet lodged in his brain, threatening possible brain damage. He also suffers from hearing loss, daily headaches and nightmares, she said.
Narvaez’s attorney, Pamela Lacher, said her client suffered from a degenerative brain disorder, though a specific diagnosis could not be offered by a neurologist who examined the defendant. Lacher argued that the condition caused Narvaez to be paranoid and suspect the victim was going to do something to him.
Halgren said Narvaez’s condition “could be offered as an explanation, but it doesn’t excuse it.”
The judge said that whatever Narvaez’s condition may be, “This isn’t something that gets better, it gets worse over time. If this really played a role in Mr. Narvaez’s behavior, then he poses a danger and will continue to pose a greater danger.”