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Federico gets two years in prison for shooting near Cortez school

Kemper Elementary students were evacuated after a shooting at an adjacent home Sept. 15, 2021. (Jim Mimiaga/The Journal)
Man allegedly shot woman as women fought at home near Kemper Elementary

In handing down a prison sentence for Gerardo Federico, Judge Theresa Cisneros on Tuesday considered mitigating factors that led to a shooting during an altercation last year in Cortez.

In an eleventh-hour plea deal Monday before a trial, Federico pleaded guilty to possessing a weapon as a previous offender.

Tuesday, Federico received a two-year sentence in the Colorado Department of Corrections and one year on parole. He had faced a possible sentence of 15 months to three years in prison.

As part of the plea deal, charges of assault with a deadly weapon and violation of a protection order were dismissed. In court, Federico admitted to shooting Tanya Ahasteen at a home on Montezuma Avenue.

The criminal case emerged from a fight among three women at 546 E. Montezuma Ave. on Sept. 15, 2021, that ended in a shooting while Kemper Elementary was in session next door.

During the sentencing hearing, District Attorney Matt Margeson stated Federico had been barred from his wife’s home because of a protection order. He was not allowed to possess a firearm because of his criminal record.

Gerardo Federico (22nd Judicial District Attorney's Office)
Tanya Ahasteen
Cortez police officers investigate a shooting at a home next to Kemper Elementary after a shooting Sept. 15, 2021. (Jim Mimiaga/The Journal)

“The conviction is a necessary component for public safety,” Margeson said, adding that Federico shot Ahasteen in the back in an altercation next door to Kemper Elementary. Margeson recommended the maximum three-year sentence.

Margeson questioned the claim of self-defense, noting that Federico fled the scene instead of staying to clear up the matter. Also, a person claiming self-defense must reasonably believe he is being attacked and is at risk of death or injury, Margeson said.

Defense argues for lesser sentence

Federico’s attorney, Richard Simms, requested that the sentence be reduced because mitigating circumstances led him to accidentally fire the 9 mm bullet that struck Ahasteen in the leg.

Simms said Federico acted in self-defense and to protect his daughter and wife. He presented evidence that Ahasteen sent threatening messages to Federico’s wife and arrived at the home intending to start a fight.

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Simms disagreed with the prosecution’s stance that Ahasteen was trying to collect her belongings after being kicked out of the house.

“I’m coming for you and your man,” she said in a voice message. Text messages also included the word “kill” and an allusion to taking the child, Simms said.

When Ahasteen and another person arrived and knocked at the door, Federico’s wife allegedly had a handgun in her waistband. She opened the door to find Ahasteen and another person, and one of them hit her.

A fight ensued and spilled into the yard. The handgun ended up on the ground, and Federico picked it up then pointed it at the melee while yelling for everyone to back off, according to Simms’ account in court.

Federico cocked the gun, lowered it and it accidentally fired, Simms said. The bullet went through Ahasteen’s the leg, and the wound was not life-threatening.

Simms argued Federico responded to a home invasion, and that the sequence of actions and a report from officers stated as much. Police reported that people involved had been drinking.

Federico left and was arrested Oct. 5 at a residence in Lukachukai, Arizona.

“I saw my wife get attacked, I see the gun on the floor, I grabbed pistol and said ‘back up,’” Federico said during sentencing. “I did not mean for it go off, not mean to shoot. I apologize to all affected, I accept responsibility for my actions.”

Cisneros said Ahasteen’s messages to Federico’s wife did not point to “a peaceful gathering.”

She said Federico and his wife should have contacted police about the threatening messages.

“Really this was a lot of adults acting badly,” Cisneros said, and contacting the police about the threats could have prevented the situation.

Cisneros cited Federico’s extensive criminal history, and said Federico “reacted under provocation” in the shooting. She said the circumstances of the incident made it a “struggle” to determine an appropriate sentence.

She urged Federico to turn his life around for the sake of his daughter.

“Take a look around and put yourself in her shoes,” she said.

In an unrelated case, Ahasteen and her sister have been jailed on suspicion of first-degree murder of Alvin “AJ” Cayatineto March 9 at his residence south of Cortez. The sisters are being held in Montezuma County Detention Center, and the case is pending.