Jose Herrera-Gutierrez had just told jurors how he begged for his life, how his friends begged for theirs.
In court, he had pointed out the men he says executed his two friends and tried to kill him during a Dec. 2 drug robbery in a north Omaha auto body shop.
And the 34-year-old Omaha man had endured two days of questions from both prosecutors and defense attorneys.
Prosecutor Tressa Alioth asked Herrera-Gutierrez why he came forward to testify against the men.
“Because I want justice to be served,” he said in Spanish, his chin quivering. “They tried to kill me. I have (four) children. I love my children.”
With that, he stepped down from the stand, having completed his testimony as the key witness in the first-degree murder trial of Terrell E. Newman and Derek U. Stricklin for the deaths of Carlos E. Morales, 47, and Bernardo V. Noriega, 40.
On his way out of the courtroom, he jabbed his fingers toward the defendants and barked “buena suerte” before his voice trailed into something inaudible.
A Spanish speaker in the courtroom translated his words as a sarcastic version of “good luck.”
Defense lawyers say Newman and Stricklin need attentive jurors, not luck.
Newman's attorney, Daniel Stockmann, and Stricklin's attorney, Jeremy Jorgenson, picked at Gutierrez's account of the execution-style killings, his own drug dealing and at the fact he didn't call 911 immediately after the slayings.
In a trial that is expected to spill into next week, Gutierrez, 34, didn't hesitate in identifying Newman and Stricklin as the two gunmen that day.
Gutierrez replayed the buildup to the drug deal, the shootings and how he survived the bloodshed.
He said he had met Morales eight months before when he delivered four pounds of marijuana to Morales' shop, 4010 Grant St.
Gutierrez had been to the shop eight to 10 times since, including once more to sell marijuana. On several occasions, he said, he saw Newman and Stricklin hanging out at the shop.
In late November, Morales asked Gutierrez if he knew anyone who could find him cocaine. Gutierrez did.
On Sunday, Dec. 2, Gutierrez and Bernardo Noriega went to Morales' shop with a package, perhaps a kilo, of cocaine.
Morales met them at the north door of the shop.
He told them that the deal would take place in his upstairs office — and he instructed Gutierrez and Noriega not to say anything.
Gutierrez said he, Morales and Noriega walked up the stairs to the small office. Standing inside were two men Gutierrez recognized: Newman and Stricklin.
Gutierrez testified that Noriega placed the package of cocaine on a table. Morales, the shop owner, and Newman tested the cocaine, he said.
Stricklin was holding a clear plastic bag with wadded-up cash. Newman said he needed to go to the car to get more money.
But as he got to the office door, Newman whipped out a large black-and-chrome handgun. Stricklin followed suit with a smaller gun, Gutierrez said
The gunmen told Morales to use his Spanish to order Gutierrez and Noriega to the ground. Brow furrowed, Gutierrez recounted how the three men begged for their lives.
“I told them, 'please, I have family' and Bernardo said the same thing,” he said.
The men ordered Gutierrez and Noriega to the ground. Stricklin tied Gutierrez's hands behind his back with computer wire, Gutierrez said.
Noriega also was bound.
All the while, Morales was imploring the men to stop. “What are you doing?” he said. “This is your second house.”
“I'm sorry, Carlos,” Newman said, according to Gutierrez. “Business is business.”
The gunmen then put Morales to the ground and bound his hands behind his back.
Gutierrez said Stricklin placed a plastic bag over Gutierrez's head. Gutierrez said the bag inflated as he breathed, so Stricklin pressed the air out of the bag and taped it back.
Gutierrez said he struggled to breathe and briefly felt like he was floating. Then he heard shots.
“Boom, boom, boom,” he recounted. Then, perhaps, a fourth shot.
Two different guns were fired, killing the men. A bullet missed Gutierrez's head.
Gutierrez said he could hear one of the men — he thought it was Noriega — groan “ah, ah, ah.”
He said he tried to lay still. Then one of the gunmen grabbed him, ripped off the wire binding his wrists and the bag over his head.
Gutierrez said he played dead and the gunmen dropped him to the ground — a point the defense pounced on.
Stockmann said he planned to call a medical examiner to testify to how difficult it would have been for anyone to play dead after struggling to breathe.
Jorgenson poked at Gutierrez's descriptions of the two gunmen, noting that Gutierrez had said one of the gunmen was clean shaven and had no gold teeth. Both defendants have gold teeth and facial hair.
Jorgenson also suggested that Gutierrez incorrectly placed the gun in each man's right hand. Both Newman and Stricklin have been taking notes in court with their left hands.
The two defense lawyers scrutinized Gutierrez's claims that he escaped the grisly scene with no blood on his clothing. And they hammered away at why Gutierrez didn't call 911.
Gutierrez stood by his account. He said he initially didn't call police because he was scared. Gutierrez said he told police everything two days later.
He said he will never forget Noriega's moans — or calling out to his friends after the shooting.
“Pariente! Pariente! Pariente,” he hollered, using a Spanish term for “brother.”
There was no response, no movement. Only blood pooling under both men.