An Arizona grand jury has indicted Gabriel Milford Kavoka on first-degree premeditated murder and carjacking charges in connection with the killing of a taxi driver outside of Casino Arizona last August, recent news reports reveal.
Kavoka was apprehended shortly after the fatal shooting of Hilario Mendoza, a 45-year-old father of three, according to KNXV TV News. The suspect allegedly had stolen the taxi, too, from the casino parking lot during the nighttime hours.
He was chased by police before being stopped in Mesa following the brief pursuit, the Phoenix station reported. Cabbies For Life further reported last year that Mendoza apparently had driven the suspect to another casino first, before Kavoka said it was the wrong casino. So, Mendoza drove him to Casino Arizona.
Officers with the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community Police Department did not identify the suspect following his apprehension. Since then, KNXV reporters saw his name in court documents.
Mendoza was driving for a local taxi company for only two weeks before the shooting. Mendoza died shortly after being shot, relatives told the media at the time of the murder.
Kavoka Incarcerated for Earlier Charges
Kavoka earlier had been arrested on federal assault and weapons charges, news reports said. He was sentenced for almost 13 years, KNXV added. In 2004, he pleaded guilty to assault with a dangerous weapon and discharging a firearm during an incident involving law enforcement officers, KPNX reported.
The KNXV report adds that Kavoka was released from the Bureau of Prisons in November 2018. Twice, his supervised release allegedly was revoked.
Kavoka was released from federal prison in January 2016 but was taken back into custody the next month after he allegedly failed to report to a federal probation office, according to KPNX.
Casino Arizona is on property belonging to the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community. It is located near Scottsdale.
The casino’s 100,000-square foot gaming floor has over 900 slot machines and 50 gaming tables. There is also a bingo hall that can seat 1,000 players.
Last year, Arizona Casino officials released a statement offering sympathy to Mendoza’s relatives and friends. The officials added they were cooperating with law enforcement officers in their inquiry.
The family set up a GoFundMe page to help cover funeral costs. It raised $12,420.
“I would have given the person the car, I would have given the person whatever amount of money. Because nothing is worth taking a person’s life,” Hector Mendoza, Hilario’s brother, told KPHO TV News after the shooting.
Arizona Reconsiders Betting on Sports
Elsewhere in the state, Arizona lawmakers are trying to enact sports wagering — for the second consecutive year. But doubts linger that the 2020 effort will be more successful than last year’s failed attempt.
At its core, the legislative proposal is essentially a tribal sports betting bill. The Grand Canyon State has 24 tribal gaming properties operated by 16 of its 24 recognized Native American groups.
SB 1525 would permit wagering on sports at retail sportsbooks or kiosks located in tribal casinos. Also, bars, nightclubs, taverns, and related establishments that are licensed to sell liquor and are tribal owned could also take wagers.