HARTFORD — After walking up to Joshua Cortez and shooting him in the head about 10:30 p.m. Monday near 100 Cowles St., Joseph Silva watched as Cortez crumpled to his knees, then he fired as many as five more .40-caliber rounds into Cortez's head, according to the warrant for Silva's arrest.
"This is how Joseph Silva does it," a witness heard Silva proclaim as he fired, the warrant says.
Silva then walked over to a Honda Accord parked nearby and emptied his pistol into Alysha Ocasio, 23, of Newington, the warrant says.
Cortez, 22, of Hartford, was pronounced dead at the scene. Ocasio, Cortez's girlfriend and the mother of his 2-year-old daughter, Kaiden, died later at Hartford Hospital.
Silva, 20, of 25 Montrose St., was charged early Wednesday with two counts of murder. He was arraigned Wednesday in Superior Court in Hartford, where Judge Carl E. Taylor set bail at $3 million and ordered Silva back to court May 31.
The warrant for Silva's arrest does not offer any motive for the killings, although police described them as the violent conclusion of an ongoing dispute between Silva and Cortez. It was not clear why Ocasio was shot.
Hartford police Lt. Brandon O'Brien said "there were various sources of conflict between them, and it seemingly boiled over." O'Brien said the two knew each other, but details of their relationship were unclear. Police are still investigating and trying to determine what led to the killing.
Friends and relatives of the victims were at the court for Silva's arraignment, and one person was thrown out for yelling at Silva as he stepped from the lockup. Silva ignored the outburst, keeping his back to the crowd as he spoke quietly with his lawyer, Angel Lugo.
After shooting Cortez and Ocasio, according to the warrant, Silva climbed back into his mother's silver 2003 Infiniti G35 and sped north on Campfield Avenue. There were two others in the car. About a block north of the crime scene, one wheel fell off the Infiniti, the warrant says.
Silva continued on for another mile on three wheels, stopping near 141 Freeman St., the warrant says. A witness called police about 12:30 a.m. Tuesday to report finding the car.
O'Brien said that police are not sure why the wheel fell off but that it helped them immensely with the investigation.
Police interviewed people in the neighborhood and learned that three people who had been in the Infiniti got into a Nissan Altima with plastic taped on a rear window and drove off. A short time later, police spotted the Altima on Freeman Street and stopped it. There were five people in the Altima, including Silva, the warrant says.
The man who was in the car at the time of the shooting told police he, Silva and a woman were driving near Goodwin Park when Silva saw "a guy" he knew, according to the warrant. Silva stopped the car, got out and walked toward Cortez, the warrant says. The witness said it looked like Cortez was about to punch Silva when Silva took a few steps back and the witness saw flashes coming from Silva's direction, and Cortez fell to the ground, the warrant says. Silva then walked over to the Honda and shot the woman seated inside, and returned to the car, the witness told police, according to the warrant.
"I can't believe I just did that," Silva said as he drove off, according to the witness. "I just killed that" man.
Silva, in an interview with detectives, said he knew what happened but was scared to talk about it, according to the warrant. He initially denied any involvement in the killings but then said he'd had a gun and later claimed he and Cortez were fighting for the gun when it went off, according to the warrant.
Hours after Silva's arraignment, more than 100 people returned to the scene of the violence. Friends and family of Cortez and Ocasio shed tears and lifted their voices for the young couple at a candlelight vigil organized by Mothers United Against Violence.
Jose Cortez, Joshua's father, was encouraged by the support.
"It's the worst feeling in the world, losing your son," he said. "You don't want to outlive your kids ever, you want them to outlive you."
During the ceremony, Hartford police officers presented Cortez with the handcuffs used to arrest Silva. The grieving father held them triumphantly.
"I hope he rots in hell," he said of his son's alleged killer.
Also in attendance was Phillip Smith, Ocasio's cousin. He described her as a "loving, caring" person who was devoted to her daughter.
"She didn't deserve this," Smith said. "She was an innocent bystander caught up in a misunderstanding."
The woman who police said was in the car with Silva at the time of the shooting, Kailei Opalacz, is the owner of the Altima the group escaped in after the wheel fell off Silva's mother's car. She was charged by Hartford police with having a weapon in a motor vehicle. Opalacz, 20, of Glastonbury, posted $20,000 bail with the assistance of a bail bondsman.
Police later searched Silva's home and recovered the .40-caliber pistol they believe to be the murder weapon. They showed Silva a picture of the gun, according to the warrant, and he "positively identified it as the one he used in the shooting."
In addition to the murder counts, Silva was charged with unlawful discharge of a firearm and altering or removing the identification marks on a firearm.
Silva has two other pending cases on charges that include operating a motor vehicle under a suspended license and possessing less than half an ounce of marijuana, court records show.