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Guard at illegal cannabis dispensary gets prison for fatally shooting would-be customer in Vista

A North County jury convicted Calvin Ackles of murder in the death of Francisco Cruz, who was shot nine times — eight shots were to his back

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VISTA — A marijuana dispensary security guard who shot a would-be customer nine times — including eight times in his back — in Vista three years ago was sentenced Tuesday to 50 years to life in prison.

A Vista Superior Court jury found Calvin Lamar Ackles, 43, guilty in January of first-degree murder and an allegation that he’d used a gun in the death of Francisco Cruz, 31. The jury rejected the argument that Ackles was acting in self-defense in the confrontation, which happened outside an illegal dispensary on South Santa Fe Avenue north of Smilax Road around 9:30 p.m. March 26, 2020, days after COVID shut downs hit the state. Ackles’ attorney did not respond Tuesday for a request for comment. According to Deputy District Attorney Mike Still, Cruz had gone to the dispensary warehouse in search of wax, a concentrated form of cannabis. Ackles, who was living at the dispensary at the time, spoke to Cruz in the parking lot, said they had no wax and told Cruz to leave. Surveillance video caught the encounter, Still said. The two argued. Cruz got out of his car, headed to the trunk and started to pull out a steering wheel lock — which Cruz routinely used to secure his convertible.

The prosecutor said Cruz, who was right handed, grabbed the wheel lock with his left hand. He had barely gotten it out of the trunk and was not raising it or swinging it when Ackles went for his gun.

Ackles fired the .357-caliber handgun at close range, hitting Cruz once in his chest and eight more times in the back, the prosecutor said. Some of the shots were fired while the victim was on the ground.

“There was a lot of things he could have done beside shooting him nine times,” Still said. Cruz died at the scene. Ackles — a parolee and felon barred from having a gun — fled. He was found and arrested a few days later in a San Diego motel.

Still said the Cruz’s longtime girlfriend testified that Cruz probably grabbed the steering wheel lock to secure his ragtop convertible as he always did, with a plan to walk to one of the neighboring dispensaries in the area to see if he could buy wax cartridges.


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