Garland, TX – The father of a teenage boy accused of murdering three teens inside a Garland convenience store in 2021 has been convicted of capital murder and sentenced to life in prison without parole.
The jury deliberated for just over three hours on Feb. 10 before convicting 34-year-old Richard Acosta in the Dec. 26, 2021 shooting deaths of 16-year-old Ivan Noyala, 17-year-old Rafael Garcia, and 14-year-old Xavier Gonzalez, even though he wasn’t the one who pulled the trigger that night, KDFW reported.
A fourth juvenile victim was hit by gunfire during the attack, but survived.
The alleged shooter has been identified as Richard Acosta’s son, Abel Acosta, who was just 14 years old at the time of the triple homicide.
Abel Acosta has been on the run since the deadly attack.
“This was a long, emotional week for the families and a taxing one for members of the Garland Police Department involved in this case,” the Garland Police Department said in a press release on Friday. “We are only halfway to justice. The search continues. We will not stop until Abel Acosta is captured.”
A $10,000 reward is being offered for information leading to the teen’s arrest.
“We are urging anyone with information on the whereabouts of Abel Acosta to contact the Garland Police Department,” the agency said.
Reports at 4, 5 @NBCDFW
Richard Acosta Jr. on trial. Accused of being son’s getaway driver after he opened fire inside Garland taco shop killing 3 teens; injuring 4th
That’s Acosta’s truck leaving. Defense said he didn’t know his son was shooter. Abel, now 15, still fugitive pic.twitter.com/RUvavjEjwM
— Maria Guerrero (@Maria_NBC5) February 7, 2023
The jury determined Richard Acosta helped his son “case” the Texaco station where the shooting occurred and that he was the one who drove him to and from the scene, KDFW reported.
Richard Acosta claimed he had no idea what his son had planned or what had gone on inside the store because he was too busy listening to a Dallas Cowboys game on the radio out in his vehicle.
Richard Acosta testified that he went to the store that night with the sole purpose of buying two packages of Tylenol for his wife, KDFW reported.
As he climbed back into his truck after making the purchase, Richard Acosta said his son asked him about two teens who had walked into the store.
Investigators said those two individuals were Noyala and Garcia.
Richard Acosta testified that he told his son the boys hadn’t said anything to him, KDFW reported.
He said he had also never seen the teens before and didn’t know their names.
According to Richard Acosta, Abel Acosta told him the boys knew who had stolen a necklace from him and that he wanted to go talk to them, KDFW reported.
“I thought he was going to ask them a question, the whereabouts of his necklace,” the father claimed. “Nothing that alarmed me.”
He said he was circling the truck around the gas pumps when Abel Acosta suddenly tore off his shirt and tried to jump out of the vehicle, KDFW reported.
Richard Acosta said he crashed into another vehicle due to the chaos.
The truck he collided with belonged to Noyala’s uncle, who was parked outside the store waiting for Noyala and Garcia while they ran in to buy some tacos, KDFW reported.
Richard Acosta said he told his son to hurry up to go talk to the teens and testified he had no idea the boy was carrying a gun when he went into the store.
He said that when the gunfire erupted, he ducked down in his truck to take cover, KDFW reported.
Richard Acosta testified that his son jumped into the back seat of the truck a moment later and told him to drive away.
“He says, ‘Go! Get out! Somebody is shooting! Get me out of here,’” Richard Acosta told the jury.
Richard Acosta said his son seemed agitated and scared when he tried to ask him about what happened, KDFW reported.
He also claimed he never saw Abel Acosta with a gun.
The teen subsequently disappeared and his father has maintained he has no idea where he might be, KDFW reported.
“We don’t know if he’s alive. Nobody knows if he’s even breathing or anything,” Richard Acosta testified. “Nobody knows.”
He said he feels terribly for the victims and their families.
“It is the most horrible thing. I can’t imagine how those families feel,” Richard Acosta said. “We all lost a son that day. I will never get to see my son again. He’s going to spend the rest of his life in prison.”
Richard Acosta’s defense team said they plan to appeal the verdict, KDFW reported.
Dallas County Criminal District Attorney John Creuzot issued a statement in the wake of the verdict calling the incident “an indefensible crime.”
“Three young lives were lost, and today justice has been done by holding Richard Acosta accountable for his involvement,” Creuzot wrote. “However, there is still work to be done. We pray for the apprehension of Abel Acosta in the hopes of him being brought back to Dallas County so he too can answer for his horrifying actions caught on surveillance video on the night of December 26, 2021.”
Investigators said they have received tips Abel Acosta left the Garland area and could be in Mexico or West Texas, The Dallas Morning News previously reported.
The U.S. Marshals have also joined in the investigation.
Police said they intend to pursue a capital murder charge against Abel Acosta once he is apprehended.
Juveniles who were at least 14 years old at the time of their crime can be charged as adults in Texas if approved by a juvenile court judge, The Dallas Morning News reported.